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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora