After the flawed rollout of a website to help Americans sign up for health insurance knocked President Barack Obama on his heels, and after changes in the overall market based on his health care reform law forced him to apologize for misleading the American public, the president is going on offense. And a new Gallup poll released Tuesday showing the public's unfamiliarity – and dislike – for the law proves he's got his work cut out for him.
Obama is scheduled to speak at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the White House, to kick off a month's worth of promotion of the Affordable Care Act, the much-maligned signature domestic policy of the president and Democrats. Republicans have decried the law as a government takeover of health care since its passage in 2010 and recent negative publicity has caused some Democrats on the hook for the law to panic ahead of the 2014 elections.
"In his remarks, the president will discuss the ongoing work to strengthen the website and reach Americans seeking these new healthcare options," a White House official said, according to Reuters. "He will also focus attention back on the core principles of reform that have been lost in the attention on the website, and invoke the successes that are already flowing from the law."
The White House will employ digital media and Democratic surrogates to push a new benefit or success story per day throughout December, in an advent calendar-like approach to promote the law meant to provide more affordable health insurance and widespread coverage to Americans. For two months, the White House and the president have been forced to apologize for promoting the website, healthcare.gov, that was riddled with problems and overwhelmed by volume to the extent that many people who tried to sign up for federally mandated insurance could not do so.
The Obama administration also had to push back sign-up deadlines and create waivers for millions of people whose current plans were cancelled by their insurers as a result of the new law, despite a repeated promise from the president that "if you like your insurance, you can keep it."
"On Wednesday, the White House and Democratic allies will focus on how Americans are paying less for preventative care under Obamacare. On Thursday, they'll highlight that people with preexisting conditions can no longer be charged more or denied coverage. And on Friday, they'll emphasize the slowing growth in health care costs," Politico reported Tuesday.
A new poll by Gallup shows young people are most unfamiliar with the law, with 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds reporting their lack of knowledge of it. That compares with 28 percent of adults overall who say they lack familiarity with the measure.
"The majority of Americans remain broadly familiar with the healthcare law, but relatively few claim to be 'very' familiar with it," said Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief in a memo accompanying the poll results. "Two groups that the law is most likely to affect – young Americans and those with lower incomes – remain less familiar than others."
Much of the law's ability to decrease insurance costs broadly depends on young, healthy Americans not previously signed up for insurance to sign up in order to spread out the risk for insurance companies among a wider pool of consumers.
The poll also shows people who say they are familiar with the law are more likely to oppose it than those who aren't, a trend the president will seek to change.
Newport points out this could simply reflect the law's polarization, as more Republicans than independents or Democrats say they are familiar with the law, which has been the focus of much negative coverage by conservative news outlets for years.
"These relationships do not necessarily mean acquaintance with the law leads one to become more negative, as the correlations most certainly reflect party differences in familiarity," Newport said. "Still, it is possible that if familiarity with the law increases, opinions could shift at least somewhat in a more negative direction, given the higher disapproval among the familiar population."