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Obama administration spends millions to put a new blush on Obamacare

By Wendy N. Powell, contributor

Photo: CDCThe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is becoming increasingly less popular with Americans and concurrently less partisan in Washington.

Many in Congress who supported the law are changing their support consistent with the public sentiment, and because concerns are rising about political futures over support for what was once marketed as the answer to American health care woes.  

Democratic senator Max Baucus, one of the authors of Obamacare, recently referred to the healthcare law as a “potential train wreck.” Many congressional representatives have followed suit, including  Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) who claims that the train wreck will happen without more funding. More money? Taxes? Sequestration?

Previously undisclosed provisions of Obamacare are surfacing and elected officials are realizing the effects on their constituents. 

To name a few “job killing” provisions:  businesses dropping health care coverage, reducing hours to part time, plans to pay tax penalties to the IRS instead of coverage, medical device taxes, and taxes to cover employees with previous conditions. Small businesses that don’t have compliance officers or tax departments don’t know how to comply with the 20,000 pages of regulations and they have concerns about penalties and fees.

Public opposition grows. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation Poll,  as more Americans understand the law, the less they like it. Opposition from Democrats has risen 15 percent since last November. Labor unions that strongly supported Obamacare now want out; elected officials want an exemption. The frustrating sentiment of “It’s good for thee but not for me” is resonating with the electorate. The fact that more knowledge about the law is providing resonance does not provide more bang for the advertising buck.

Despite our economic problems and serious rising bipartisan opposition to Obamacare, Health and Human Services (HHS) has signed yet another contract with advertising firm Weber Shandwick to market the law. Since this is deemed a tax by the Supreme Court, why is marketing necessary? The price tag is expected at another $8 million with an option to increase the costs. In a re-run of last year’s taxpayer funded marketing, this latest plan is an addition to the $3.2 million spent in 2010 using the late Andy Griffith discussing the value of the law, and $20 million  spent in 2012, prior to the decision of the Supremes, with marketing firm Porter Novelli  and $3 million to Weber Shandwick.

Despite concerns from senators dealing with spending cuts, marketing funds were recently moved from Public Health and Prevention Programs to pay this new marketing spending commitment.

Public sentiment provides an interesting look at the results of the marketing expenditures to date. A recent Rasmussen Poll revealed: 

Forty-three percent (43%) of Likely U.S. Voters view the health care law favorably, while 49% have an unfavorable opinion of it, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This includes 17% with a Very Favorable view of the law and 35% with a Very Unfavorable one.

This concern was raised in 2012, and I will raise this again.

Considering the HHS employs approximately 84,000 employees, you would think that they would be able to provide this communication using internal public relations. Or is this an attempt to sway new public opinion that is growing in opposition to the law? This opposition is the result of growing understanding of the personal effects of Obamacare. All the marketing they should need is for legislators to communicate to their constituents at no additional cost. If they don’t personally understand it, neither will we.

An understandable and clear law does not need massive marketing campaigns. Our legislators should be able to explain in plain language, the laws they enact, why they voted for them, and the effects on the electorate.

So far, the marketing and communication to date about Obamacare have provided Americans with the expectation of a better process and cost savings. The burgeoning reality is that the public has experienced reduced coverage and significantly higher costs (up to 3 times original reported estimates). There is no marketing plan that will change that.  

~~Wendy N. Powell is the author of the critically acclaimed Managing Experience Acquired: Necessary Skills for Successfully Managing Any Employee. Her book is now available on e-book sites. She has been featured on ABC, Fox, and NBC as a management and career expert. Powell writes for a number of publications, including a column at The Huffington Post. To learn more about Powell, see the website Management Experience Acquired. Read more of Powell's articles at The US Report.


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