On April 19, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services announced an $8 million contract with public relations firm Weber Shadwick to educate the public about various aspects of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA,” aka Obamcare). The contract follows a previous public relations contract with Weber Shadwick for $3.1 million, and another with PR firm Porter Novelli in May of 2012 for $20 million.
To date, it doesn’t seem that the public education campaigns have had much effect. According to the Kaiser Foundation, 57% of Americans have nary a clue about how the ACA will impact them, including 67% of those who are uninsured. More than half of Americans think that the ACA created a public option (it didn’t), 7% think the Supreme Court struck down the ACA, and 78% indicate that they haven’t heard enough about the law to know how it will affect them.
Of course, surveys indicate that 73% of Americans don’t know why we fought the Cold War, and 29% don’t know the name of the Vice President (ignorance is bliss, after all) so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised at America’s lack of understanding about the ACA.
But we’d at least expect President Obama to be in the know about how the ACA is working out. At a rare press question and answer session on Tuesday, President Obama informed us all that “a huge chunk of its [the ACA] already been implemented…for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing’s already happened, and the impact is that their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before. Full stop. That’s it. Now they don’t have to worry about anything else… On those high risk pools, those who can’t afford it, we’re going to provide them with some subsidies. That’s it. I mean, that’s what’s left to implement because the other stuff’s been implemented and it’s working fine.”
Whew. Big sigh of relief. Most of Obamacare has already been implemented, 85% to 90% of Americans don’t have to worry about anything else, and the high risk pools are going just swimmingly, thank you very much.
Except that the President’s wrong. All that’s been implemented so far are a Medicare drug benefit change, and increasing the mandate for insurers to cover children up to age 26. Still left are the mandates to buy coverage, the increase in taxes and fees that are coming down the pike, massive regulations that tower over 7 feet when printed out, and, let’s not forget, the state run exchanges that are so far behind schedule that even Max Baucus, one of the bill’s primary proponents, called them a “train wreck.” Enrollment in the exchanges begins on October 31, 2013, with coverage starting January 1, 2014.
85% to 90% of us have nothing to worry about? Surely the President isn’t counting the 7 million workers whom the Congressional Budget Office expects will lose their job based coverage due to Obamamcare, or the millions of senior citizens that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said will lose their private Medicare Advantage Plans once the law’s sharp payment cuts go into effect. What about the insurance rate increases that Blue Cross and other health insurers have announced because they have to comply with Obamacare’s many market regulations? Maryland’s largest insurer announced a 15% rate hike, and in Missouri rates are expected to go up 89%. Not a thing to worry about.
Thank heaven at least the implementation of the high risk pools are going great. Well, except for the fact that they’ve only attracted a third of the expected amount of applicants, and even at that rate they’re already over budget.
Maybe the good folks at Weber Shadwick and Porter Novelli can spend some of their PR money educating the President about the bill. If he doesn’t understand it, how can we?