Congressman Chris Van Hollen Says Democrats Did A Poor Job Explaining Healthcare Reform to the Public

Congressman blames Dems, gradual implementation as reasons why the Affordable Care Act has mixed public support.

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Maryland Congressman and ranking member of the House Budget Committee Chris Van Hollen confessed Tuesday morning during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that Democrats leading the charge on healthcare reform are partly to blame for mixed public support. [See a collection of political cartoons on healthcare.]

"First of all, all of us who are supporters of the legislation should have done a better job of explaining its benefits, and we need to continue to make very clear what the benefits of the Affordable Care Act are," Van Hollen said.

Americans remain split over the Affordable Care Act. A Pew Research Center poll released in March showed 45 percent disapproved of the legislation while 47 percent approved.

Van Hollen argues the gradual implementation of the Affordable Care Act has also been an obstacle for legislators touting the bill.

"A lot of those provisions and benefits don't kick in until the year 2014 because it takes time to establish the exchanges, the supermarkets at which people buy healthcare plans," Van Hollen said. "So you have a situation where the millions of Americans who stand to dramatically benefit from this have not yet seen those benefits. And that's about 30 million people."

In 2014, the Obama Administration's timeline shows that major pieces of the law including a provision stopping health insurance companies from discriminating against people on the basis of pre-existing conditions and gender go into affect. [See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

It may not just be the court of public opinion that rules on the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court will decide whether the individual mandate, a key provision requiring all Americans to be insured, is constitutional in upcoming months. Without the individual mandate, Van Hollen says it's unlikely the rest of the bill could survive.

"They have to untangle a lot of other issues and we really don't know how far their reach will go in the event they overturn it," Van Hollen said. "That is one thing that I am sure will have to weigh heavily on the minds of some of them who would like to overturn the law."

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  • Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. She can be reached at lfox@usnews.com.