Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., accompanied by fellow members of the Senate GOP leadership answer questions following a Republican strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2013. From left are, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, and McConnell. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
They tried to vote it down in Congress. Then they tried to convince the Supreme Court that it violates the Constitution. Then they tried to convince the voters to elect a president who would repeal it. Then they tired to convince Congress to repeal it.
So far, they have lost every time. But they haven’t given up.
Obamacare opponents are, yet again, intensifying their efforts to block implementation of the law. This time, they are appealing to the court of public opinion.
As an opening salvo, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R – Ky.) plans to deliver stacks of petitions to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from people requesting exemptions from the law. Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus declared that everyone deserves an exemption.
Does that include the millions of young adults who regained coverage under their parents’ insurance thanks to Obamacare? And the patients whose catastrophic medical expenses are now covered without limit? And the seniors who recently received rebates for drug expenses that fell within Medicare’s “doughnut hole” coverage gap?
Should they be exempt from receiving the thousands of dollars in new medical coverage they have been receiving?
And what about the millions of Americans who will gain coverage on January 1 through insurance exchanges and expanded Medicaid programs in many states (unfortunately, not including Pennsylvania)? Do they deserve the chance to remain uninsured?
Like many previous attempts to block Obamacare, this version relies heavily on misinformation. McConnell used it in two recent op-eds, including one in the Inquirer. In them, he cited reports of qualms with the law among some Senate Democrats to assert that even they fear higher premiums, lost jobs, and high compliance costs.
But that’s not what they said. In fact, they are eager for Obamacare’s successful implementation. Their concern is that it will require more money and resources than the administration is expending. And McConnell is doing his best to make sure that Congress blocks Obama’s access to both.
Opponents have also heralded an erroneous report of Democratic plans to extend preferential treatment to members of Congress and their staffs. In fact, the law already treats them worse than almost everyone else who receives employment-based coverage. Under a provision originally proposed by Senator Chuck Grassley (R – Iowa) their coverage will end on January 1 and they will search for it on their own through insurance exchanges. Democrats are seeking to clarify that they will still receive an employer contribution toward the cost of premiums – something that almost every other American with job-based health insurance will continue to get.
The opposition strategy relies on widespread public confusion about Obamacare. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 42% of Americans are not even aware that it is the law of the land. That’s a perfect environment for spreading misinformation.
That puts the burden on Obama to get the word out. Yet, inexplicably, the administration’s public information effort has been tepid at best. At a press conference this week, Obama gave a lackluster defense of his rollout plans.
With version 5.0 of opposition strategy underway, it is clear that Obamacare opponents will not stop. The only effective defense is a vigorous communications campaign in response. What is Obama waiting for?
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