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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid