mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
ACA Fail Fractal
Why the Law's Bad Press Has Slowed Down

After weeks of almost daily PR disasters for the Obama administration, the travails of the Affordable Care Act have receded from headlines—and some of the current reports are even modestly positive. What’s going on?

First, website problems have shifted from the front-end of the site to the back-end. The problems users encountered when they went to were one of the biggest drivers of the ACA’s bad press, and they seem now to have eased up. That doesn’t mean the website as a whole is fixed. There have been several reports about insurers not receiving accurate information about purchases—or even getting no record of the purchase at all. We currently don’t know how severe those problems will be. We could be looking at a repeat of the first website disaster, or we could be looking at something much less serious.

As for cancellations, the second main source of uproar, the outlook is also far from clear. President Obama’s “one year extension” for cancelled plans muddied the waters. States were divided over whether to allow insurers in their own states to offer the extension, and even then a lot of the implementation of the extension has depended on what insurers did. The extension, however, could actually make the law’s long-term prospects worse. The extension did what the administration set out to do: salve a festering PR problem. But we just don’t know yet how much that grace period has cost the administration long-term.

Finally, arguably the biggest problems with the law—rising costs and network restrictions—won’t really begin to bite until well into the new year, or even later. Rate shock is an ongoing issue, and it will take some time to see if the first-year enrollment numbers for healthy people are low enough that premiums are forced up. Network restrictions will start kicking in as people who have been forced onto new plans attempt to go to familiar doctors or hospitals and learn that their plans no longer cover those providers. But since most people don’t go to the doctor frequently, network restrictions will hit people on a rolling basis, which may lessen the overall national PR impact.

The Obama administration’s last-ditch maneuvers, coupled with the time it will take for many of the law’s provisions to work themselves out naturally, have created a lull in the bad press monsoon the ACA has been weathering. That lull could be interrupted at any time by more unexpected bad news, of course, or it could very well be the new status quo. But right now it seems most likely that the other shoe will drop on January 1st, when the insurance purchased on the exchange goes into effect and all of the ACA’s latent, more serious problems start to rise to the fore.

Features Icon
show comments
  • TommyTwo

    “The travails of the Affordable Care Act have receded from headlines”

    This would be an abdication of responsibility by the press. Leave aside the matter of this Administration’s competence as well as all the fundamental issues the ACA raises. The extra-legislative and extra-constitutional management of this crisis by the Administration (see last Thursday’s new HHS proclamations) has shocked even me. No, there are no black helicopters and Obama is not about to become Dictator-for-Life, but the Administration’s contempt for the constitutional order is frankly reminiscent of banana republics.

    • Fred

      _the Administration’s contempt for the constitutional order is frankly reminiscent of banana republics._

      Well, when you come up politically in a third world dictatorship like Chicago, it’s not surprising that you’d try to run the country like a third world dictator.

  • Hubbub

    When the PPACA was passed following all of the yeas and nays about its reliability, savings, and wholesale implementation, those with any idea of how laws are passed knew that we are and will be stuck with this monstrosity, come hell or high water, until Hell itself freezes over. Do you honestly think Obama and the Democrats are going to abandon this seriously impaired child? Certainly not! No matter how much it costs, no matter the numbers of people burdened with its restrictions, co-pays and other ‘nuances’ the law will not be scuttled. It is with us. It will stay with us. It will bleed us dry. It will leech our well being. There is no way in God’s universe that the powers that be will admit a monumental mistake, even if it means killing the nation and tarnishing their historical images. Such small men and women we have today, making such decisions for us all without the intellectual or moral wherewithal to do a creditable job.

    • Jim__L

      The ones that nail their colors to this mast are going down with the ship.

      The thing to watch will be how some try to extricate themselves. Should be amusing.

  • Anthony

    The above Feed brings to mind all thing have their time (President Obama and Democrats are easy target – Healthcare delivery/provision/selling in America with concomitant interests needs more focus) and slow press coverage of ACA infers a time for embracing before being far from embraced.

  • GodisanAmerican

    How much is author’s wishful thinking? or even glee about potential problems with obamacare.
    Here is my prediction: Law is here to stay no matter how much GOP would like repeal or defund it. About a year from now, there is going to be large number of people who like obamacare. There are plenty of stories on how people are surprised by low (subsidies) rates of obamacare. You are not going to see those stories here but you can see them e.g. here

    • Jim__L

      The number of people who are going to be unhappy with ObamaCare are going to significantly outnumber those who will be happy. It’s how the law is written.

      REPEAL is far from impossible. In fact, it’s not even unlikely. ObamaCare is a disaster and we’re going to get rid of it.

    • Boritz

      There may be a significant number of people of like the law. See this:

  • Jim__L

    – Defund subsidies because we can’t afford them. The House can do this.
    – Roll back legal requirements for plans to qualify for exchanges, to bring prices down to offset the massive affordability issues
    – Make individually purchased health plans mostly tax deductible, but increment the tax on employer-provided plans upward to offset those (minor) losses

    Maybe ObamaCare will survive in some form, but its creators will not recognize it. (How could they? They didn’t even know what was in it when they passed it…)

    As for the bad press, the fact that it will keep hitting people over and over and over again throughout the year is about the best definition of “festering” I can come up with.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service