WASHINGTON -- Over the next week, a large number of progressive groups, health care advocacy organizations and high-profile administration officials and congressional lawmakers will hit the road to re-sell the president’s health care reform law around the one-year anniversary of its passage.
“You can expect to see officials discuss how the law is already benefiting seniors, small businesses, women and young adults,” said an administration official. “And they’ll be taking the message outside of Washington to communities across the country, not to re-fight the political battles of the last two years, but to highlight how this law is already moving us forward.”
According to materials outlining the various events, the effort seems impressive in its scope and political star power.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and SBA Administrator Karen Mills will discuss the law’s implications and reach. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senator Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) will participate in small business events in their communities. The Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, will host an event with faith leaders in New Orleans. Health Care for America Now, alongside AFSCME, SEIU and U.S. PIRG will sponsor everything from “small business roundtables” to workshops for seniors to mock trials of the health care law. Radio and social media advertising will be featured along with a press conference, speeches and town hall meetings.
The gist, as a non-administration official put it, was to underscore exactly how transformative and beneficial health care reform has been throughout the country.
Which begs the question: Why, after one year in, does the public need to be reminded?
To be sure, the notion that the president’s health care law is a burden from which the public begs for relief is contradicted by most public opinion polls.
But the law also remains largely misunderstood or under-embraced. The anniversary blitz, which will involve events every day during the forthcoming week, is just one of countless efforts launched since the president signed the law one year ago this coming Wednesday.
Whether out of spin or sincerity, the law’s defenders insist this push will succeed where the others failed. For starters, more of the law has been implemented now, meaning repeal would have heavier costs. There is, for instance, the elimination of the lifetime benefits cap and the various money sent to states to establish exchanges. In September, a provision of the law came into effect allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance to the age of 26. This spring, the first class of college students will graduate with that luxury.
“The most important and significant provisions of this law have been popular and are getting more popular with the public as time goes on and as more and more people are directly impacted by the law,” said Ethan Rome, Executive Director of Health Care for America Now, a national grassroots campaign dedicated to supporting and implementing Obama's health care plan. “And at the end of the day, the most powerful argument is the real experiences of real people.”
Yet even Rome acknowledges there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to persuading the country. One element of the legislation (say, eliminating the right of insurance companies to refuse covering children with pre-existing conditions) may resonate with one segment of the population but not another. Arguments that seem sensible to make on Capitol Hill -- that the health care law is instrumental for deficit reduction, for example -- don't exactly work in local forums. “You can’t put a CBO [Congressional Budget Office] study on a rally sign,” said Rome.
But so long as the legislation remains under attack -- either in Congress or the Courts -- its defenders will roll out attempts at a pushback. The hope, in the end, may be as simple as banking on the public exhausting of the fighting. “I think,” said Rome, “that people are getting extremely tired of the relentless Republican attacks on this.”