Little talk of affordable care in PR push

Published: Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

One striking thing about the new White House Obamacare promotion campaign is that so far it hasn’t had much to say about the central focus of Obamacare, which is helping Americans buy affordable health insurance.

Look at the cases President Obama has highlighted. There are young people who say they have benefited from being allowed to stay on their parents’ health policies until age 26. There are people suffering from serious illnesses who say they are thankful there will no longer be lifetime caps on insurance benefits. There are stories of people with pre-existing conditions who will be able to purchase coverage.

Obama’s pitch for those features of his national health care scheme is one he could have made – and did make – a year, or two years, or three years ago. Indeed, in the years after Obamacare was signed into law in March 2010, the president and his Democratic allies often stressed the same topics they’re stressing now.

The difference, of course, is that the Obamacare exchanges now exist, and Americans have just days to go before a Dec. 23 deadline to purchase coverage that will begin Jan. 1. And while tens of millions of people are being affected – many negatively – by the changes in insurance markets brought on by Obamacare, the benefits the administration often cites involve far smaller groups of people.

One way the Obama administration fed the powerful political force was to exaggerate the problem.

Indeed, a larger number of people – perhaps 5 million in the nation’s individual insurance market – are now facing cancellation of their coverage and far higher premiums and deductibles in the new policies they must purchase. And yet the administration has dismissed them as a tiny part of the U.S. population.

What is indisputable is that the aspects of Obamacare the White House cites most often in its promotional campaign – the pre-existing conditions policy, or the estimated 3.4 million young Americans who can stay on their parents’ coverage until age 26 – involve numbers that are far smaller than the tens of millions of people who likely will face steeper costs, nearly unpayable deductibles and sharply limited doctor choices under Obamacare.

And that is why the White House sales campaign focuses on the same things Democrats said in 2009, and 2010, 2011 and 2012.

• Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

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