(Bloomberg) The health care websites improved performance has both U.S. political parties shifting strategies, with President Barack Obamas team preparing a January advertising blitz and a wave of celebrity promotions to boost enrollment, allies said.
On Capitol Hill, Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act are emphasizing new points of attack, highlighting examples of people who are paying more for insurance including House Speaker John Boehner, and those losing access to their doctors as they shift plans, congressional aides said.
Spirits among the presidents health care advisers have been significantly uplifted this week, says Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington-based advocacy group with close ties to the administration. There is a great deal of relief about how the website has been improved.
The stakes riding on the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act are high: Obamas presidential legacy and control of the Senate in 2014 midterm elections could hinge on public perceptions of the law.
The administration and supporters of the health law are determined to avoid tit-for-tat controversies with Republicans and instead focus on driving enrollment and promoting the benefits of the law.
Yet if Republicans retake the Senate chamber and hold their House majority, Obama could spend his last two years in office vetoing legislation aimed at undermining or repealing the law.
Such partisan fighting would hobble Obamas ability to entrench his signature domestic achievement alongside now-sacrosanct entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and President George W. Bushs prescription drug benefit.
Obama already has suffered damage from the botched rollout. For the first time, 53% of Americans say he isnt trustworthy or honest, according to a Nov. 25 CNN/ORC International survey.
The ACA now has the opportunity to realize the potential by end of March, when the initial six-month open enrollment period ends, said David Plouffe, a former senior Obama adviser. Republicans get-rid-of-Obamacare message is getting less effective by the day as more people sign up.
Next week, a number of celebrities will join in an effort organized by an independent group to boost enrollment on the online exchanges, said a person familiar with the plan, who wasnt authorized to speak publicly about it. An advertising blitz will begin in January after the holiday season has ended, said the person.
Scarlett Johansson, Aisha Tyler, and Gabrielle Union already have recorded phone messages that Planned Parenthood is using to promote enrollment. Actresses Lena Dunham of Girls and Elizabeth Banks of Hunger Games posted Twitter messages to promote a Planned Parenthood Internet town hall this week on Obamacare.
In addition, Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to women, will ramp up significantly its efforts to promote enrollment in January, deploying hundreds of staff members with a goal of contacting a half-million people in Texas, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, says Rachel Fleischer, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Enroll America, an advocacy group with close ties to the White House, plans more than a thousand events across the country to promote coverage during the first three weeks of December, a 40% increase from the same period in November, said Justin Nisly, a spokesman.
A Boehner aide who insisted on anonymity said the speaker currently pays a monthly premium of $433 and an annual deductible of $700 under his congressional plan. He would have a monthly $802 premium and a deductible of $2,000 for an equivalent family plan offered on the District of Columbia insurance exchange. His office documented Boehners enrollment through photos and blog posts.
Unlike most employer-provided group plans, the Obamacare individual plans charge more for older beneficiaries and for smokers. Boehner is a 64-year-old smoker.
Republicans also said they will focus on how government subsidies on premiums are calculated and verified. The still-troubled back end of the website, as it is known, communicates with insurance companies providing coverage and other government agencies.
If the provider side is not taken care of pretty quickly, that is going to be an enormous problem, said Representative Michael C. Burgess, a Texas Republican.
The health law provides for tax subsidies to defray part of the premium cost for individuals earning up to $46,000 and as much as $94,000 for a family of four.
More than 1 million visitors gave the Obamacare website another chance on Dec. 2, a day after the government said it had done software repairs that ensure the site is functional for most users. Insure Central Texas, a nonprofit helping people navigate the enrollment process, said the rehabilitation of the website is an improvement.
We were able to get people through the entire process and had people complete the application and select a plan in one sitting on those first two days of December, Elizabeth Colvin, the director of the program, said in a Dec. 4 phone interview. That generally took maybe two or three times before Thanksgiving.
She agreed with Jeffrey Zients, Obamas incoming chief economic adviser and a lead consultant on the website repairs, who said Dec. 1 that healthcare.gov was night and day better than when it debuted in October.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access