President Obama has begun a new 20 day effort to sell the Affordable Care Act. And while his press conference on Tuesday was less defensive and more forward looking than his previous comments, 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.
Put simply, while 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.
Moreover, the president’s appearance Tuesday did nothing 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.
Rather than seek to work with Republicans to make the law more palatable and more effective the President Obama is effectively doubling down on a law that has, so far, only engendered substantial dissatisfaction with an electorate that is worried that they will lose coverage and pay higher premiums and has yet to demonstrate any degree of credibility.
The president has made it clear that his entire political legacy is going to be based on the successful implementation of this law, hence his Tuesday press conference.
Mr. Obama was clear that the law was not going to be repealed while he’s in charge, but for many this statement misses the point. They are more concerned with how the law will actually work and what the effect will be on their coverage and, crucially, their wallet.
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. Indeed, the bulk of the signups so far have been for Medicaid rather than in the state of federal exchanges.
And while there are a number of success stories from the past couple of days that Democratic congressmen and senators – as well as the president himself – are touting as indicative of a successful program, there also continue to be stories of technical glitches with the site and instances of higher premiums.
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 and we are barely out of the gate.
It follows that the president took a small step today towards selling the bill, but it’s only a small step.
It remains very much an open question whether the president will be able to solidify his legacy during this 20-day press offensive or whether by doubling down Mr. Obama will seal the fate of the Democratic party in the 2014 election and beyond.