News / USA

Final Obamacare Push Will Pitch to Low-income Young

Holding a sign saying "We Love ObamaCare" supporters of health care reform rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Mar. 27, 2012.Holding a sign saying "We Love ObamaCare" supporters of health care reform rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Mar. 27, 2012.
x
Holding a sign saying "We Love ObamaCare" supporters of health care reform rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Mar. 27, 2012.
Holding a sign saying "We Love ObamaCare" supporters of health care reform rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Mar. 27, 2012.
Reuters
In the final months leading up to the launch of the key piece of President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms, the administration is preparing a public-education campaign designed to connect directly with the audience most critical for the law's success.

The effort will focus on selling the merits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to 2.7 million Americans with little or no health coverage, who are 18-to-35 years old, mostly male, and largely nonwhite, including many who are black or Hispanic, officials involved in the planning told Reuters.

The idea is to get them enrolled in private health plans through online marketplaces that will offer coverage in all 50 states at prices defrayed by federal subsidies, which many should qualify for because of their lower incomes and lack of adequate insurance.

Participation of young consumers is central to the success of the new state healthcare exchanges, and Obama's reform law, because the young tend to have little need for medical services and are cheaper to insure. That will compensate for older, sicker people who are expected to sign up in droves because the law bans discriminatory pricing and treatment for those with preexisting conditions.

Some supporters of the 2010 law have worried in recent months that the administration was not doing enough to inform this group, and the public generally, about changes the reforms will bring. Of particular concern is the word on the healthcare exchanges, where individuals and families with low-to-moderate incomes will be able to purchase private health insurance at prices set according to income.

Current and former administration officials said the outreach will employ the same methods used in Obama's reelection campaign, which relied heavily on social media, grass-roots organizing and demographics to reach young people, minorities and women. Members of the young target audience tend to be concentrated in major metropolitan areas, and about a third are believed to live in just three states: California, Texas and Florida.

"Whatever happened in the past 3-1/2 years, this is the most important moment now because we're no longer dealing in abstraction. Millions of people are going to be able to touch and feel something," said David Simas, who oversaw opinion research for Obama's reelection. He became a deputy senior adviser to the president in February and is one of the leading advisers for the campaign.

Due to begin this month, the marketing push will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and will complement promotions by private groups including the nonprofit Enroll America, which is headed by a former Obama White House aide and supported by healthcare groups, private companies and consumer advocacy organizations.

Officials say the government outreach will be covered by about $1.25 billion the administration has scraped from funds within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the original congressional allocation for implementation.

Republicans in Congress have blocked new money for the effort so they can use its failure as a winning issue in the 2014 congressional midterm election campaign. House Republicans just voted to repeal the law in what was their 37th attempt to kill or defund some part of it.

Reuters spoke to several government officials, including Simas, about the implementation drive.

The objective is to "surround" low-income young adults with messaging about the healthcare benefits by tapping channels more apt to reach them: cable television, radio, churches, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, online chat rooms and youth-oriented magazines. The White House and HHS are also in discussions with celebrities, sports leagues and franchises that may be willing to help promote coverage.

The Spanish-language cable networks Univision, Telemundo and impreMedia are already considering a nationwide expansion of their joint media program, which has been praised by Obama, to advocate for healthcare reform in California. The three news competitors have agreed with a private healthcare foundation, called the California Endowment, to encourage Latinos to enroll in the state's health insurance exchange by sponsoring print, television, radio and Web-based promotions.

One White House official said the youth-targeting strategy was so important to the success of enrollment that if it didn't work, none of the larger efforts would make a difference.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) - widely referred to as Obamacare by many Americans - has already begun to bring fundamental changes to the $2.8 trillion healthcare system through a series of reforms aimed at lowering out-of-pocket costs, improving access to preventive care and encouraging new healthcare business models intended to restrain cost growth.

Beginning Oct. 1, the law will also begin offering subsidized health coverage to millions of low-to-moderate income people through the online state-insurance marketplaces and an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor in states that accept the provision. Coverage begins Jan. 1, when the law takes full effect, and individuals who don't have it will face a penalty that begins at $95 in 2014, rising to 2.5 percent of annual income in 2016.

The government aspires to sign up 7 million uninsured and under-insured Americans in the first year of reform.

No Hard Sell

Obama has avoided the bully pulpit since signing the healthcare legislation into law, according to former advisers who concluded that strong public opposition would not begin to change until after the reforms became tangible.

But the president has made two public appearances over the past month to explain the ACA benefits. During the Oct. 1-to-March 31 enrollment period, he will do more, though sticking with the soft sell, said administration officials.

Critics complain the White House has adopted too low a profile on health reform so far, and fear the effort to explain to a skeptical and in many cases misinformed public is coming too late to persuade them that participation is a good thing.

One of the most prominent recent critics has had a change of heart. Democrat Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, sounded the alarm in April about how few details were shared with Congress about outreach efforts. He warned of a coming "train wreck" if the administration were to fail to enroll enough Americans for coverage.

The comment, which was zealously seized upon by healthcare reform's Republican foes, clearly worried the White House. Since then, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has taken on a more prominent behind-the-scenes role by holding meetings every two weeks with Baucus on healthcare. He chats as often by phone with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"I'm more confident about implementation today," Baucus said in a statement in response to a query from Reuters. "The administration has been much better about keeping me and my colleagues up-to-date on their efforts."

To prepare for the autumn enrollment, White House officials say Sebelius and her lieutenant, Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will travel this summer to meet with local leaders and community organizers as part of a ``soft-education campaign'' about coming benefits.

By the time the marketing push gains momentum in September and October, government officials say an important messaging advantage will be working in its favor.

As many as two-thirds of the intended audience, they say, have had insurance coverage but lost it after being laid off or switching to an employer who doesn't offer it. That means the message can focus on the cost and relative value of the plans. Pricing information is still being worked out, but premiums will run more than the penalty. One fear is that the $95 disincentive is too low to prompt young people to pay more for insurance they may not believe they need.

The worry is unwarranted, said Simas. "When you ask a 26-year-old male or female why they don't have insurance, they say they can't afford it - 'The job doesn't offer it, I can't afford it.' Rarely will you hear that it's not important."

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid