Saturday, December 21, 2013

Obama administration ought to fight GOP anecdotes with their own anecdotes, the best antidote to GOP cherry picking

In 2014, GOP's tactic to  kill Obamacare will be propaganda by anecdote.  While the figures of the winners in health care reform will far outweigh the losers, the Obama administration should also fight fire with fire to put some perspective on the issue.  It is not just enough to rely on people's experience to spread the good word to their friends and relatives in order to debunk the GOP's scare tactics of  distortions, and misinformation,  scary predictions, and cherry picked stories of the disgruntled.  The Obama administration needs to humanize the success stories in a way that those who benefit relate to the majority who do.
For example,  I received this email from one of those middle aged males living in Connecticut who got bounced off his individually purchased catastrophic health policy. While he has just received a reprieve for a year  from either being fined for not finding another policy,  he decided to go ahead and sign up through his state's exchange.  Here in a nutshell is his experience:

"Finally enrolled in CT Health Exchange program and bought insurance.  I had a very good experience and the web site was super easy to use.  Took much less time than I anticipated.  There were not a lot of choices, but the choices were decent – certainly compared to what I had before.  I purchased an Anthem Blue bronze plan for about 50% of what my “paper” plan from Golden Rule cost.  Insurance has a four star rating.   Let’s see how things work out with them, but at the age of 49, I am pretty happy with what I got.  Can’t say the same thing for any of the folks in the Red States – especially those who could qualify for Medicaid but their own governors would prefer them to continue to access care in the emergency rooms….what a joke."

While it is estimated three million holders of individual policies that were not in conformity with Obamacare standards got notices this fall, the administration believes that only 500,000 of them would have problems affording a replacement or would qualify for a subsidy for their new policies. For that reason, they tweaked and delayed parts of the Affordable Care Act, to allow them to continue with their old policies for a year without a penalty, to be able to sign up  through the exchanges for low cost  catastrophic insurance that was in conformity with  Obamacare standards, including free cancer screenings and no co-pays for check ups and other preventative measures. This same opportunity had originally been restricted to those under 30 and "hardship" cases.  This is in no way a "fundamental change", as shrill voices from the anti health care forces claimed, because of the few impacted.  What the administration needs to do is to tout the other 2.5 million who did find a more affordable, better policy and shout their success stories to the rafters.

60% of those under 65 in the US receive insurance through their employers.  In a passing conversation with a benefits provider to major Colorado corporations, I asked him what will happen in 2014.  He replied," little change. Major employers had already made the adjustments. " In fact, recently the annual increase  in employer provided insurance, which had been climbing years before the Obamacare law was as much as 9% a year..had decreased to around 3.5%...the lowest in years.  In spite of some GOP flame throwing, that costs had risen by $2, 500 per family per year, fact checkers blew some good holes in that assertion that it was due to Obamacare.  It is just too soon to tell, they conclude.   The administration needs to provide anecdotes to make their case.

What really aggravates me is the whine  that you cannot keep your own doctor and then claim the President lied again.  What about those 30 million, too, who never had a doctor until now  because they could not afford insurance for either lack of means or pre-existing conditions?  That is a number that should overwhelm any of the disgruntled and their stories need to be touted to the high heavens.

Besides, anyone who changed jobs or their employer changes plans before Obamacare, knows that consumers are always seeking new doctors anyway.  Besides, most affected with having to find a new plan already have a large range of choices, depending on their location...and those choices of providers are the usual brand names.  The administration needs to make that case with anecdotes.  

For us seniors who listened to the Obamascarers, that $400 billion was robbed from Medicare Advantage to help pay for Obamacare for others... the anecdote should come from those like me: I saw no difference this year during open enrollment  and my Medicare advantage plan was unchanged. I got it this year at the same price.  No one I know has had their plugs pulled by some death panel either.  For the fact checkers:  the life of Medicare was extended by 12 years due to the cost savings built into the law.    These stories  to be told by those who have actually experienced the impact of the law.  

This story telling will take some money, given the amount of advertising poured into the airwaves by anti Obama and anti Obamacare forces.  The insurance companies have a great stake in making sure Obamacare brings 30 million new customers into coverage by them.  That is one source of funding. The other is the bully pulpit of the administration and its supporters.  So far the bully part has been .a whisper ...of what it should be and instead, the mistake is being made just to rely on word of mouth by those who have benefited by the new law.  Perception that most have benefited and the rest are a minority of grouches can not be left up to "buzz".  For the sake of protecting their legacy, to fight off GOP's efforts to sabotage Obamacare with "repairs", and to do better in the 2014 midterms, using anecdotes  is the right antidote.



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