If you are following the media coverage of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) you cannot help but come away with the impression that this piece of legislation is an unmitigated disaster of unprecedented magnitude. The narrative leads you to believe that the implementation is so flawed and the concept of universal health care so complicated that the only reasonable recourse is to scrap the entire thing and start over.
That is what the Republican Party wants you to believe. And they are doing an excellent job of conveying that message through the media.
The question that comes to our mind is: “Why.” Why are the Obama administration and the Democratic Party allowing this to happen? Why are Democrats allowing their opponents to define the narrative on their most significant legislative accomplishment in decades?
We stipulate that the website is a disaster. That the cancellation notices received by individuals holding junk policies should have been both foreseen and better handled. We agree that the 5% of the population impacted by these notices is not an insignificant number. And we concur that having a minuscule 50,000 people sign up in the first month is far below expectations.
But why are we only hearing these negative stories?
Why aren’t we hearing about the millions of people who lost their jobs and would have lost their health care as well if not for the ACA?
Why aren’t we hearing about the tens of millions of people who are able to get coverage even though they have a pre-existing condition…something they could not have done before the ACA?
Why aren’t we hearing about the tens of millions of high school and college grads who have no prospects of immediate employment with benefits but are able to maintain coverage under their parents’ policy thanks to the ACA?
Why aren’t we hearing from the tens of millions who would have faced bankruptcy simply because they got sick but are able to avoid financial ruin thanks to the ACA?
Why aren’t we seeing testimonials from these individuals on the news?
Why aren’t ACA surrogates pointing out ad nauseam that the cost of health care rose only 4% in the last two years thanks to the ACA…the lowest increase in decades?
Why aren’t we seeing ads touting the success of the state run exchanges in signing up individuals in dire need of heath care and contrasting them with those states that refused to participate leaving millions of their citizens at risk?
Why aren’t we seeing ads featuring personalities who cater to the 18-34 years olds explaining why they should sign up?
Why aren’t we seeing surrogates reminding people of what it would be like if Republicans got their wish and dismantled the ACA? “Lose your job…lose your coverage.” “Got a pre-existing condition and need coverage…tough!” “Just got graduated and can’t find a job…you won’t find health care coverage either.” “Are you having sticker shock because your health care coverage premium has increased 40% over the past 4 years…too bad?”
Why we aren’t seeing surrogates asking the ACA detractors one simple question over and over and over again: “You don’t like the ACA…fine! What’s your alternative?” “Because going back to the old days where skyrocketing health care costs were bankrupting families and threatening the economy is not an acceptable alternative.”
Have Democrats and the administration been doing some of this “push back”? Yes! But it has been sporadic and disorganized. They need a comprehensive marketing plan to sell this law and remind us of all the good things that it has provided for the American people.
The biggest mistake that Democrats have made in the ACA rollout is allowing Republicans to define the narrative…
…because there is more to the ACA than a website.