As a bit of a political junkie, it can be somewhat disorienting for me to realize that something can be the top news story for most of a year and yet, the people most affected by it may still not be aware of it.
Last week, I ran across this article from Kaiser; they open with the story of a woman who is presumably very concerned with her healthcare (she was one of 600 people who showed up for a free clinic, most of them spending the night in their cars to get a good spot in line before the 6am opening). She has major health problems, no insurance...and hadn't heard anything about the Affordable Care Act or the Supreme Court's impending action on it.
Here's a big part of why the ACA has been a political loser: those with an interest in demonizing it have been spreading misinformation 24/7 since the debate began, encouraging people to vote against the Democrats, while those who will be helped the most have received little to no accurate information about the law.
On Sunday, I was watching Hulu and there was a (pretty well produced, in my opinion) commercial attacking the ACA, with the usual lies about how it's adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit. I have yet to see a commercial supporting or explaining the ACA; with only one side being told, why wouldn't the average voter believe that side?
Simply put, there are two groups of potential voters we need to reach: those who benefit from the law but don't know about it, and those who know about it but believe the misinformation the republican party has been spreading for the last few years.
Now that the supreme court has upheld the law, we need to be telling people exactly how it benefits them right now. Poll after poll has shown that, with the exception of the individual mandate, a majority of the population supports everything in the law; they just don't support what the republicans have told them is in the law. We don't need to say a word about democrats, republicans, or the president; the republican party has spent the last few years making it very clear that this is Obama's law and they oppose it completely, and we can count on them to continue running against it. We need to let people know what it is the the republican party is running against.
In Florida, we should be emphasizing how the ACA has saved seniors millions of dollars on their prescription drugs.
In college towns, we should be emphasizing how young adults can now stay on their parents' insurance.
In congressional districts where the republican is running on austerity, we should be running statistics from the CBO showing how the ACA has already reduced the debt by $X billion and will reduce it by another $Y billion over the next decade.
If there's one thing we should have learned from Wisconsin, it's that the party might not lead, but they will follow. When we made a lot of noise, they started helping financially. When we made deer hunting an issue, state legislators started talking about it. I have no idea why the Obama campaign doesn't already have commercials running 24/7, talking up healthcare reform. What I do know is that this community might be able to give them, and other democrats, the push we need to change the conversation.
Can we do it all ourselves? No. We need TV commercials, which will take some serious money. But we can get started. Write letters to the editor. Write op-eds and send them to the paper; maybe they'll get published. Talk to your family and friends. Pick one aspect of the law that you want to clarify, be absolutely certain that you have your facts straight, and start spreading the word. If you or a member of your family was helped by the law, go with that - people relate better to stories than statistics. The ACA isn't perfect, and we don't need to pretend that it is; we just need to show people one way in which it helps them, or someone they know. And then another. And then another. Until eventually, they start to think - "You know, that health care bill that Rep X keeps attacking seems like a pretty good idea after all..."
This is stuff we should have been doing two years ago; instead, we let the republicans define the law, and lost the House as a result. Is it too late to undo the damage? I don't know, but I don't think we can afford not to try...
My book, Healthcare in the 21st Century, was published recently. It covers Electronic Health Records and the HITECH Act, and is similar in content to the healthcare series I've been posting. It's available to $2.99 or as a free borrow for Kindle owners with Prime, but it will be free this coming Saturday (June 30th). While the ACA and the HITECH Act are two different things, the HITECH Act is a good example of the government making positive changes to how healthcare is delivered in this country.