President Obama kicked of a 20-day press offensive yesterday to sell the Affordable Care Act. After the last two months, which have been disastrous for the administration at best, the President has a steep, uphill climb ahead of him.
To be sure, Obama was much less defensive and more forward looking in his press conference. He came prepared with ACA success stories from across the country and shiny statistics on enrollment.
Despite this, it very much remains to be seen whether this new initiative will help sell the law or assuage very real concerns about its efficacy and viability.
Though the website may be functioning more effectively than it has previously it is by no means clear that the implementation of the law itself will go smoothly. The transfer of information from the site to insurers hasn’t been shown to be a seamless process and it isn’t clear that policies that are offered will be affordable or competitive with what people have already had.
As the President didn’t take questions from the press he was able to avoid revisiting these issues. What’s more, he didn’t have to answer questions over delaying the individual mandate, offering interstate purchasing of coverage or what the administration is going to do about the insurers who will not offer the plans that the law originally canceled.
It has become increasingly clear that the ACA is going to be President Obama’s legacy, good or bad. He will have no other major piece of sweeping legislation to hang his hat on and he fought tooth and nail to get this bill passed. He can’t give up now.
That said, while Obama was clear that the law was not going to be repealed while he’s in charge, this statement misses the point for many. Though the law remains unpopular, most Americans are more concerned with understanding how the law will actually work. How will their coverage be affected? And, crucially, how much will it cost?
As of today, there is no clear evidence that this law is going to meet the goals of the ACA – to provide affordable care for all Americans. The bulk of the signups so far have been for Medicaid rather than in the state of federal exchanges.
The bottom line is that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves just because the ACA is having a good week. Only time will tell whether the law will be heralded as a success. This is truly a marathon, not a sprint.
And while there can be no doubt that things are looking better than they were 10 days ago for the President and for the ACA, the President’s press conference yesterday was only a small step towards his goal of building a legacy for himself.
The fate of the Democratic party in 2014 is very much tied to the success of this bill and, by extension, Obama’s press tour this month. We will soon know whether he can save not only himself, but his party.