Keeping Faith with the Affordable Care Act

An article in The Hill newspaper reports that the Obama Administration is reaching out to Hollywood celebrities to encourage them to pitch the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Of course this makes sense because they have fans and followers all across the nation.  They can make a difference.  But what I did not see was an article about the Obama Administration reaching out to social workers to help promote the implementation of ACA.  I did a Web search to see if I had missed it.  Didn’t find anything so if you saw that article or know of any efforts, please let me know.  Nothing against Hollywood celebrities, but I believe social workers can be quite helpful in the effort to sell the benefits of the ACA.

As the October 1 date for the opening of health insurance exchanges approaches, opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are CRSIP logoramping up their efforts to delay, discredit or deny the implementation of the most comprehensive reform to healthcare in the United States since Medicaid and Medicare.  To date, House Republicans have held 39 votes to either repeal or hinder the implementation of the law they derisively refer to as Obamacare—voting most recently to delay the individual mandate requirement.  Republicans saw an opening for more attacks when the White House announced last week that it would delay penalizing businesses for not providing healthcare coverage in 2014 as required by the ACA.

The Obama Administration says its decision was a response to the complexity of the new law that is causing problems for some businesses.  Republicans saw the decision as an opportunity to again make the case that the Affordable Care Act is unwieldy and unraveling under its own weight—that it is flawed policy and destined to fail.  Their argument carries psychological weight as the decision to delay the employer mandate came on the heels of revelations that fewer states than anticipated had created health insurance exchanges, leaving it to the federal government to create exchanges in many more states than they were prepared to service.  These two setbacks suggest the Administration’s efforts to implement the ACA are in trouble.

The truth is the ACA is not in trouble.  There will be unforeseen challenges in implementing any comprehensive policy initiative.  Look at welfare reform.  States were encouraged to apply for waivers during implementation of welfare reform that would allow them to make adjustments to the new law.  Many states were granted waivers during implementation of the No Child Left Behind law.  Expecting a policy as complex as ACA to move forward smoothly without a hitch is ludicrous.  The ACA is fine and social workers need to get behind it in full force.

Republicans would like you to believe that their incessant efforts to undermine the ACA have nothing to do with the perceived difficulties of its implementation.  You have to wonder what is motivating Republicans in their zeal to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act.  Their claims that it nationalizes or socializes health care in the United States are patently false.  Many progressives remain disappointed that the law does not include a public option and rewards private health insurance companies with millions of new customers.  Yet, Republicans are now threatening to shutdown the government if Obamacare is not repealed.

So who’s winning the public relations battle?  If you look at the latest Gallup Poll, you have to give the edge to Republicans.  According to its latest results, 52 percent of Americans disapprove of the Affordable Care Act up from 45 percent in November 2012.  This includes 20 percent of Democrats—many who disapprove of the ACA because the law did not go far enough towards creating a single-payer system.  So the numbers may not be as bad as they seem.  If you were to do a content analysis of media coverage of the Affordable Care Act since its enactment, you will more than likely find significantly more negative coverage than positive.

Could the Obama Administration have done a better job of promoting the benefits of the ACA?  I think so.  However, defending Benghazi, NSA surveillance, alleged IRS abuse, and so on, it is easy to take your eye off the ball as they say.  The worst thing is that we begin to believe the hype.

Written by Dr. Charles E. Lewis Jr.

President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy

Twitter: @CharlesELewisJr.


Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr. is President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. He has served as deputy chief of staff and communications director for former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns and was the staff coordinator for the Congressional Social Work Caucus. He was a full-time faculty member at Howard University School of Social Work prior to joining Rep. Towns’ staff and now is an adjunct associate professor. As staff coordinator for the Social Work Caucus, Dr. Lewis helped to plan and to coordinate numerous briefings and events on the Hill and in the 10th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.

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  1. Ann July 25, 2013
  2. Niqui July 25, 2013

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