Amid concern, White House speeds up health care benefits

by
May 18, 2010

By JENNIFER HABERKORN & SARAH KLIFF, Politico

President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies are using the levers of government to speed up and promote what they consider the most popular aspects of the new health care law before a highly skeptical public passes judgment in November.

Top administration officials, who meet regularly with outside special interest groups to coordinate the public relations effort, have so far focused on expediting and amplifying four key areas of the new law: expanding coverage to young adults, covering sick people with pre-existing conditions or high medical costs, providing tax breaks to small businesses and helping a select group of seniors pay for prescription drugs.

In one case, the administration moved so quickly to provide coverage to young adults under their parents’ health plan that it cut short the conventional period for the public to weigh in on the new rule.

In another, it used taxpayer money to alert small businesses that they will get a break on this year’s taxes.

Both are perfectly legal but also politically beneficial.

In every case, the administration’s objective is unmistakable: Make sure as many Americans as possible know as quickly as possible about the health care changes they will find most attractive.

The law was structured to accomplish this. The individual benefits were front-loaded to kick in before this election, while many of the most controversial aspects — such as the mandate for purchasing insurance and new taxes — were put off until after the 2012 presidential election.

With the administration moving even sooner than the law mandates, it’s basically front-loading the front-loading, with considerable publicity assistance from friendly advocacy groups.

There are two big reasons Democrats feel the need to step it up.

First, polls that show the public still isn’t backing the legislation. Most show mixed feelings at best and often hostile attitudes toward the law. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll found that 44 percent think the health plan is a bad idea; 38 percent think it is a good idea.

Second, the heavy spending in anti-reform advertising: In the past month, anti-health-reform groups have poured $3.8 million into television advertising, nearly doubling the $2 million that has come from pro-reform forces, according to Evan Tracey, founder of TNS Media Intelligence.

To read more, visit: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/37379.html

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