THE BLOG

Washington Watch: Week 14

05/07/2013 01:18 pm ET | Updated Jul 07, 2013

Washington Watch is a weekly look at President Obama's second term -- and related news on the national scene. For prior weeks of Washington Watch visit: Our-Gov.com

This past week saw the release of data sure to affect our daily lives and our voting for years to come!

The first report concerns Obamacare -- aka the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Health Care Reform. The Republicans use the term 'Obamacare' derisively; however during the 2012 campaign many Democrats embraced it as showing "Obama Cares." Nevertheless, whatever you call it, as we discussed a few weeks ago -- there is still little information on the ACA that is making its way to the masses.

It seems many do not know THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IS LAW and its major provisions will be implemented SOON!

This past week, Kaiser released its April Health Tracking poll with the heading:

Six Months Before Open Enrollment Begins, Many Americans Remain Unaware Of, Or Confused About, The Affordable Care Act As Federal and State Officials, Community Organizations and Advocates Gear Up For Consumer Information and Assistance Efforts.

The summary of findings includes:

  • Four in ten Americans (42 percent) are unaware that the ACA is still the law of the land, including 12 percent who believe the law has been repealed by Congress, 7 percent who believe it has been overturned by the Supreme Court and 23 percent who say they don't know enough to say what the status of the law is.
  • About half the public (49 percent) says they do not have enough information about the health reform law to understand how it will impact their own family.
  • The share of the public that says they lack enough information to understand how the ACA will affect their family is higher among the two groups the law is likely to benefit most -- the uninsured (58 percent of whom say they lack enough information) and low-income households (56 percent).
  • When it comes to where they are getting information about the law, Americans most commonly cite friends and family (named by 40 percent), "newspapers, radio news or other online news sources" (36 percent), and cable news (30 prcent). About one in ten report getting information from a health insurer, a doctor, an employer, or a non-profit organization. Similar shares say they have gotten information from "federal agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services" (9 percent) or "state agencies such as your state Medicaid office or health department" (8 percent).

Obamacare is sure to be a point of contention in the 2014 and 2016 campaigns. Some expect the president's own party to do their usual duck and cover on this issue as reported by Politico in an article entitled: Democrats fret over Obamacare as 2014 looms.

The Hill quotes one of the bill's writers, Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont), who said:

"I just see a huge train wreck coming down," he told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a Wednesday hearing. "You and I have discussed this many times, and I don't see any results yet."

Baucus pressed Sebelius for details about how the Health Department will explain the law and raise awareness of its provisions, which are supposed to take effect in just a matter of months.
"I'm very concerned that not enough is being done so far -- very concerned," Baucus said.

Baucus is retiring in 2014, but it will be interesting to see how Democratic candidates who are running for office will treat the bill.

Again... IT IS LAW!

The Administration could use some 'communications' help. Maybe they need Bill Clinton. After his rousing speech at the DNC last year, Obama mentioned the ex-president should be in-charge of "explaining stuff." Clinton is indeed needed to explain the health care roll-out and options to everyday Americans.

Responding to criticism of the application, which was compared to complicated tax forms, the Administration recently rolled-out a simplified version. HuffPost reports:

After a storm of complaints, the Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled simplified forms to apply for insurance under the president's new health care law. You won't have to lay bare your medical history but you will have to detail your finances.
An earlier version of the forms had provoked widespread griping that they were as bad as tax forms and might overwhelm uninsured people, causing them to give up in frustration.
The biggest change: a five-page short form that single people can fill out. That form includes a cover page with instructions and another page if you want to designate someone to help you through the process.

Someone needs to explain to the American people what's here and what's coming... otherwise Republicans will continue their efforts to block and repeal the Affordable Care Act. They will do this at the state and federal level. Not sure what kind of offense the Democrats will provide -- especially in swing states. If the Republicans gain traction with painting health care reform as confusing, not needed, or expensive, will Democrats fight back?

Overturning Obamacare would be a major blow to middle-class and poor families struggling with health care costs... as well as to the nation's over 45 million uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions.

This week, I tried to see what information the Administration is putting out on Obamacare. Starting at the White House website , I navigated to their health care site . From there I found a somewhat useful page called Information for You. Clicking on your state provides some preliminary information.

One of the first items on the state's page says: "Beginning Oct. 1, 2013, individuals in every state will be able to shop for health insurance and compare plans through the Marketplace."

So what is 'The Marketplace' and why do they assume people know this?

Also -- the average person may not know the meaning of commonly used health insurance phrases like 'grandfathered in' or 'donut hole.'

So, I went on a quest through the site to see: What is this 'Marketplace' that they speak of?

I did manage to find a page with information on 'The Marketplace' again by state. But not all states! Some states aren't going along with setting up the exchanges and will have to partner with HHS (Health and Human Services) to provide alternatives. (Not sure what this will mean for those states...mostly Republican governors who are saying NO. Will their residents suffer because their governors won't go along with ANYTHING the Administration supports?)

Here is the page with preliminary Marketplace info: Your State Marketplace. From there I was led to my home state's (California) page, called California Benefit Exchange. Okay.

Click on it and see if you better understand what is coming.

Remember beginning Oct. 1, 2013 we can start signing up!

Vested interests, both pro and con, are starting to release their own information on Obamacare. Okay.

What to do?

I think there will be a lot of confused people unless this whole process gets a lot simpler to understand. No doubt many will decide to stick with what they have rather than wade through paperwork. Others will take the first plan they are offered. Some unfortunately will continue to do without.

Hopefully, understandable, ACCURATE information will get out to the masses SOON. October is fast approaching.

Stay Tuned.

Are Black Voters Appreciated?

Another research project gaining media coverage this past week was an Associated Press Analysis which shows the significance (and dare I say POWER) of the BLACK vote, now and for years to come. To summarize... WE VOTE.

Maybe it is memories of the obstacles our ancestors faced to be able to go to the polls. Maybe it's the recurrence of these obstacles by those who are STILL trying to disenfranchise voters who don't look or think like them. Or, maybe it was the chance to elect and re-elect the nation's first African-American President. At any rate... in 2012 blacks voted at a higher rate (percentage-wise) than any other minority group and "surpassed the white vote for the first time."

HuffPost's Hope Yen offers the following:

....the numbers also offer a cautionary note to both Democrats and Republicans after Obama won in November with a historically low percentage of white supporters. While Latinos are now the biggest driver of U.S. population growth, they still trail whites and blacks in turnout and electoral share, because many of the Hispanics in the country are children or noncitizens.

In recent weeks, Republican leaders have urged a "year-round effort" to engage black and other minority voters, describing a grim future if their party does not expand its core support beyond white males.

The questions to be answered in the months and years ahead include:

Will other Presidential candidates be as successful as Obama in securing (and turning out) the black vote? (Many suggest Hillary Clinton might.)

Should African-Americans be more strategic in their voting?

Is either party addressing the needs and concerns (and they are many) of blacks?

Will Republicans...who many view as the party of Limbaugh, Palin, and Bachmann...ever make any traction with black voters?

What do you think?