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The failure to explain health reform - Whose Fault is it that the Public Doesn't Understand?

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In March, as the Affordable Care Act approached its second birthday, the administration began a new sales job for the law, touting its more popular provisions. Still, there was no discussion on why the mandate was necessary.

The Hill reported that while the president was not mentioning healthcare in his public appearances, administration officials were busy making the case for Obamacare by releasing "a deluge of positive reports, press releases and blog posts." One example was a report timed to coincide with National Nurses Week that highlighted what the law is doing to help cure nursing shortages. The National Journal reported in mid-March that the "HHS Health Message of the Day" reminded voters that drug coverage in the Act had saved some 5 million seniors and disabled people $3.2 billion, by filling the "donut hole" omission in coverage that was part of an earlier prescription drug law. The press picked up on some of this PR and offered up stories, especially ones about young adults continuing coverage under their parents' insurance.

Positive response from the public could arrive in 2014, when the uninsured will start getting government help paying for their coverage--the heart of the law.That assumes, of course, the mandate survives.

Even so, how much the subsidies would be, and who actually would get them, is not clear--given a not-so-secret assault on the funding mechanisms in the law from employers, insurers, and manufacturers of medical devices. They are waging fierce campaigns in Congress to rid themselves of taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act to help pay for those subsidies. If Congress repeals the taxes, what will that do to the subsidies they were to help finance? If there is less money for subsidies, will Congress scale back who will be eligible for them? And how much will those still eligible get? Those are important questions overlooked by a press still waiting for its cues from the president.

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Trudy Lieberman, a journalist for more than 40 years, is a contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review where she blogs about health care and retirement at Her blogposts are at She is also a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health where she blogs about health at (more...)

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(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always) === Obamaca... by Mike Preston on Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 10:25:47 PM
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