Sensationalism sells the 24-hour news cycle. All too often sensationalized stories spur misinformation and the public is left to their own vices to discern and validate the facts. And when it comes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the misinformation ranges from the infamous death panels to the embellishment of long wait times to receive care. For consumers seeking to find the best coverage for themselves and their families, the campaign of deceit is not just a personal disservice to them -- it's a disservice to the very fabric of American ideals.
This misinformation led by those on the ideological right continues to lead the debate in the media. Unfortunately, there has not been a big enough rapid response effort by health reform supporters and my fellow Democrats to push back on these baseless accusations. When I was a member of Congress, policy disagreements required compromise and hard work by both sides to get things accomplished for the greater good. Yet Republicans in Congress, despite an affirmative Supreme Court decision and two decisive elections in 2010 and 2012, are still pushing forward with a campaign to restore the status quo for health care by rolling back ACA.
The choice of shutting down the government is the latest scheme to restore the status quo albeit unsuccessfully. The mere threat around defunding and delaying the ACA also known as Obamacare is reckless and morally bankrupt, but despite all of the drama Obamacare was open for business Tuesday with more than one million people attempting to secure information within the first few hours.
Since becoming law, Obamacare has already helped millions of people through eliminating the preexisting condition requirement, the no cost of preventive health services, and allowing parents to carry their children on their health insurance plan up to the age of 26.
Obamacare, like all major, complicated public policy, is not perfect legislation and will need adjustments and tweaks over the months and years ahead. But the perfect should not be enemy of the good. Instead of insisting on a return to the pre-ACA status quo, Republicans should work with the White House and Democrats in Congress to improve the law and ensure its success.
Obamacare was designed to give more Americans access to affordable quality health insurance and to reduce the cost of our nation's health care spending. Yesterday, the campaign to enroll millions will began and will last until March of 2014. Those of us that currently have private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid should not fear that things will dramatically change or that government will determine our health care providers. Over the next few months, national and community leaders across the country who are proponents of the new law must speak publicly with facts about open enrollment either by going to Healthcare.gov or to the Kaiser Family Foundation website for accurate information. The government cannot do this alone.
For the implementation to be successful there must be a well-organized and coordinated public education campaign led by respected national, state, and local leaders. That campaign must ensure that the benefits and the requirements for enrollment in ACA are clearly understood and accepted by the citizens living in states that refused to establish state healthcare exchanges or expand state Medicaid programs.
To date, 33 states have refused to established "exchanges" and will have considerably fewer resources with which to conduct in-depth outreach and education for enrollment. Navigators cannot shoulder the burden -- this is going to take all of us -- civil society, leaders, providers, insurers, and churches. Such a campaign would complement the federally-funded navigators who will be helping to enroll the uninsured after they have been educated.
Much of the news coverage to date is about the strong opposition to health care reform and citizens lack awareness about benefits. Current polls, for instance, continue to show that there is confusion among those who need and want health insurance. What is very clear, however, is Americans do not want to destroy our country by continuing this Republican-led government shutdown. The Administration and its allies must work harder than ever to engage the public about the benefits of Obamacare to drive enrollment. Now is not the time to let misinformation set in as reality for millions of Americans who desperately need access to health insurance. Let's get to work to help our family and friends get covered!
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