New York Times on Obamacare

Too Quiet, Again, on Health Care
Published: July 3, 2012

Nearly two dozen Pennsylvania residents, interviewed recently by Abby
Goodnough of The Times, said they were opposed to President Obama’s
health care reform law. Though almost all of them would benefit from
it, they expressed fears about a loss of control over their health
care that is nowhere in the law.

There are two reasons for this situation, which is repeated around
the country. Business groups allied with Republicans have spent $235
million on television ads attacking the law with false accusations,
with the vigorous aid of Mitt Romney and his campaign. Meanwhile,
Democrats and the Obama campaign have been amazingly reluctant to
speak up for the president’s biggest accomplishment and tell voters
what’s in it.

The president has not even capitalized on his victory in the Supreme
Court last week over his opponents’ attempt to dismantle the law on
constitutional grounds. He listed some of its benefits in a low-key
East Room speech after the ruling, and the campaign has sent out
several direct-mail fliers on the subject to women. But the campaign
has broadcast no television ads about health care, except for one in
Spanish. Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, said on “Fox News
Sunday” that it was time “for the divisive debate on health care to
stop,” suggesting Democrats want to move on.

Mr. Lew might consider going to a swing state and turning on the
television because the debate isn’t going to stop. Republicans are
happy to continue it with obvious propaganda like “Obamacare is the
largest tax increase in U.S. history.” Countering this attack and,
more important, building a foundation of support for a vastly
important social change, will require the president and other
Democrats to spend more time and more money explaining the law’s
benefits, and pointing out that Republicans have no useful ideas to
replace it.

The White House has been halfhearted in its sales pitch almost from
the beginning of Mr. Obama’s administration. Polls showed that many
middle-class voters, comfortable with their own insurance, weren’t
particularly interested in a new social program that extended coverage
to 30 million uninsured people, many of them poor.

Beyond simple decency, that’s a huge benefit to society as a whole,
improving public health and reducing expensive emergency care that
everyone pays for. In uncertain times, as well, anyone can suddenly
lose health insurance. But that case was never forcefully made, and
Republicans exploited the complexity of the law to persuade casual
listeners that, as the House speaker, John Boehner, claimed on Sunday,
“this is government taking over the entire health insurance industry.”

Expanding coverage is an idea worth defending, particularly when
Republican leaders acknowledge that they have little interest in doing
so, as Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, did on Sunday.
And there many other aspects of the law for which Democrats should use
a megaphone: an end to the Medicare “doughnut hole”; a huge expansion
of coverage for mental health; an end to lifetime and annual limits on
coverage and of rejection because of a pre-existing condition; a
requirement that medium and large businesses provide essential
coverage and pay for 60 percent of it; free access to preventive care
like immunizations and mammograms.

The campaign committee for House Democrats, with little money, is
making telephone calls going after Republicans for their votes to
repeal the law and loosen the reins on insurance companies. It’s past
time for the White House and the Obama campaign to set aside their
diffidence and begin playing an equally aggressive offense.