Michael Hiltzik's L.A. Times column delves into President Obama's health care reform plan, what Americans need to know about it, why they don't know it, and why concise, effective messaging would go a long way to remedy that.
He rightly emphasizes that in this age of 24/7 news, social media, and sound bites, getting the word out about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act has been difficult, to say the least, and he wants to know why that is.
The Affordable Care plan, which the president now calls Obamacare (owning the GOP's disdainful label), won't fully kick in until 2014, but so far, more than 2.6 million young adults have been covered, it has cut prescription costs for millions of seniors by a total of $3 billion, co-pays on preventive services such as child immunizations and cancer screenings are a thing of the past, and more than 80 million people will no longer have annual and lifetime claims caps.
Did you know that?
And did you know that in 2014, millions more Americans will not be allowed to be dumped by Big Insurance, nor will those with an illness or injury have their premiums raised beyond what they can afford?
"No longer will people be bankrupted because they have a bad gene or a bad traffic accident," says Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at MIT who helped fashion the pioneering healthcare reform act in Massachusetts.
Most people do not know any of that, yet polls show that, despite most Americans supporting the various components of the Affordable Care Act, they remain evenly split about the plan itself:
Blame for the knowledge gap belongs chiefly to the act's supporters, who have consistently failed to stand up for their own accomplishment, as was evident during the 2010 congressional campaign, when they allowed opponents to define the act for them.
Dems need to brag more and accelerate their own framing, as we did with Willard Romney's embarrassing Etch A Sketch moment, and a year ago with the dreadful Paul Ryan/GOP Kill Medicare plan, the one that he's currently trying to revive (for the most part).
Next week the Supreme Court will be stepping in to decide on the constitutionality of Obamacare. Let the fear mongering begin. Cue the comeback of "death panels" and "government takeover" signs.
It's time for proponents of the plan to tell their side, simply and clearly. Here are some healthcare reform facts:
As a result of a reform act mandate that offspring as old as 26 could be covered by their parents' policies, the uninsured rate in this cohort has plummeted to less than 25% ... a tangible benefit not just for younger people who can now afford insurance, but also for many parents who had continued to foot their kids' bills for individual insurance.
The billions in savings in prescriptions from seniors comes from the act's closing of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare's Part D prescription coverage [...]
The act already has eliminated a loophole that allowed insurers to deny coverage for children with preexisting conditions, and has provided federal funding for states to provide coverage for adults with chronic conditions who were denied insurance in the private market. [...]
Conservative analysts Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, and Vernon Smith, a Nobel economics laureate at Chapman University, observed last week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the reform act would cost insurers $360 billion over 10 years without the mandate, but produce a gain of $6 billion with it. For insurers, they concluded, "the benefits of the individual mandate ... are projected to balance, nearly perfectly, the costs" of other regulations in the reform act.
Now the Obama administration needs to get out there and feed this to the country in small, easily digested bites. He's already engaged the Twitterverse by doing this:
And that was a very good, and very smart, start.