Published May 10, 2013
"To counter the criticism, the White House has told all Cabinet members and senior officials to use commencement speeches to drive home for graduating college students and their parents the benefits they gain..."
-- Bloomberg News report on President Obama's effort to shore up support for his health law.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday that the Obama administration was pushing another $150 million into public education programs is support of the president's 2010 health law.
This money will go to community health centers, mostly in poor neighborhoods, to provide "unbiased information to consumers" about the benefits of enrolling in the subsidized insurance program set to begin on Oct. 1. That's in addition to big money being laid out for "navigators" who will reach out into targeted communities and encourage uninsured Americans to sign up for the new entitlement program.
The money for these outreach programs -- $332 million total -- comes from a fund designated in the law for preventative care and public health programs. Some Democrats, particularly Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, are upset a promised public health program will turn into a public information program. But the urgency of the moment for President Obama trumps such niceties.
At the end of April, the president dispatched top-tier White House aides to the Senate to hear the growing complaints from Democrats about the implementation of the law, most famously that it looked like a "train wreck."
With only 144 days until the new entitlement program is supposed to be online and growing acknowledgement that businesses are fretting over how to avoid higher costs and regulations, Team Obama is looking to shore up Democratic support for the law.
Take Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. She faces possible peril in next year's midterms and was a proponent of the law when it passed. If things do not go well, the political liability of the law for her will increase exponentially.
Robert Pear of the New York Times says that in the meeting with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Shaheen said her office was hearing from a lot of small businesses in the Granite State that didn't know how to comply with the rafts of new legislation.
"...restaurants that employ people for about 30 hours a week are trying to figure out whether it would be in their interest to reduce the hours," Pear quotes Shaheen as saying.
That's a reasonable concern for a swing-state senator. Whatever the president says about his health law or however many ads the government runs in support, it would be hard to counteract the political effect of bosses telling workers they were being demoted from full-time status or getting shoved out of their insurance.
The law is expected to move 8 million or more (possible many more) from private insurance to publicly funded insurance, including Medicaid. Many millions more may find themselves out of the ranks of full time workers, as small businesses look for ways to get out of the health insurance game as much as possible.
So Shaheen and others are right to be worried and the president and his team are right to try to calm them, lest growing anxieties further erode public confidence in the already unpopular law.
But despite the hundreds of millions of dollars and all the attention being given to education ahead of the looming deadline, Shaheen and others in her situation shouldn't be breathing any sighs of relief.
Obama's speech in defense of his law today ties the issue to women's health issues for Mothers Day weekend, particularly breast-cancer screenings and contraception. Obama also wants America's moms to encourage their adult children to sign up for the new entitlement program.
Obama avoided political pain in 2012 by delaying the entitlement, taxation and business regulations in the law, but that also means that after more than three years there are zero beneficiaries to the new insurance program that the president calls "Obamacare."
He's got to hurry and get the law in place before Republicans can pressure moderate Democrats to delay or dismantle it. Once there are enough Americans aboard the entitlement train, it will persist, wreck or no wreck.
But only 16 states have agreed to comply fully with the new program and create "exchanges" in which consumers can shop for policies, with varying degrees of federal subsidy depending on their income. Many other states are refusing to expand their Medicaid programs as mandated by the law, fearing future cost spikes.
So the original demand that the states shoulder much of the burden for Obama's law is going substantially unmet.
With 42 percent of adults in a recent poll saying they didn't believe that the law still existed, higher among the young and poor Americans targeted by the law, Obama has to play catch up to make sure that there are enough beneficiaries aboard to protect his legacy project.
But that's no use if you are a Democrat facing trouble in 2014. If the worry is what happens to workers, wages and private insurance, ramping up an expensive new public program won't help.
It may even hurt.
Now, A Word From Charles
"If you call [Hillary Clinton] as a witness, it ought to be at the end of the discovery of facts and not right away, otherwise it becomes a theatrical event and I think it will hurt the investigation."
-- Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier."
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.