Obama administration officials are reaching out to Americans using any and all strategies they can invent. There are few numbers weighing as heavily on the shoulders of the Obama administration than the number of days before the Affordable Care Act-mandated insurance exchanges open for enrollment on October 1; whether the exchanges get the right number of people to sign up for coverage will ensure the success or failure of the reform and the safety of President Barack Obama’s legacy.
Government officials have a big problem with which to contend. The Affordable Care Act is perhaps the most politically divisive action of Barack Obama’s presidency, and now, three years after it was signed into law, the administration does not only have to educate the American people about its ramifications but also face down an organized and well-financed opposition from the Republican party.
Republicans are creating their own educational campaign; party officials, political analysts, and lobbyists are mobilizing a counteroffensive that includes town hall meetings, protests, and of course, media promotions to discourage uninsured Americans from turning to the exchanges for health coverage. But instead of employing pure and unadulterated political rhetoric to support their arguments, Republicans are now using specific examples to show just how flawed Obamacare allegedly is. After all, they have much to gain; political analysts say that the Republicans want to use any failures or delays of Obamacare to secure a bigger majority in the House of Representatives and gain control of the Senate in the 2014 mid-term elections.
“The best way to get the juices of that right-wing electorate and activist group going is to attack Obamacare – make everything that happens look awful and voters will rebel against it,” Norman Ornstein, an expert on congressional politics at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told Reuters. “It’s a belief that if they highlight this, and sabotage it as much as they can, and if it’s disruptive, that that will work for them in the mid-terms.”
Saboteurs is exactly how the Obama administration have described the Republicans. “There are folks out there who are actively working to make this law fail,” Obama said in a speech at the White House’s East Room last week.
But for Republicans, the town hall meetings allow lawmakers to explain the motivations that prompted House Republicans to launch close to 40 attempts to defund or repeal the healthcare reform bill in its entirety or simply in part. “Make sure the participants will be 100 percent on message,” the House Republican Conference’s August planning kit, acquired by Reuters, advises for events with businesses. “While they do not have to be Republicans, they need to be able to discuss the negative effects of Obamacare on their employees.”
The only problem for Republicans is if the approximately 7 million uninsured Americans that are expected to enroll in the new exchanges are happy with their new coverage. “The fear is that the law will start to work and people will like it. They’ll like having insurance, a safety net if you lose your job. Then Republicans are stuck with it,” Ornstein said.
Still, Republican leaders are still confident that by targeting the individual mandate, which is not overwhelmingly popular with voters, they will be able to stoke discontent. “They’ll start to feel impacts that are completely in contrast to what they were told when the bill was passed. That’s what we’re seeing in internal polling from districts that will determine control of the House – Obamacare becoming more unpopular,” Daniel Scarpinato, press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told the publication.
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