American Elephants


A $3.2 Million Advertising Campaign to Sell a Pig. by The Elephant's Child

The Department of Health and Human Services, the designated agency for rolling out and making sense of ObamaCare, under the direction of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has just doled out a $3.1 million Public Relations contract to improve the image of ObamaCare. Advertising Age reports that Weber Shandwick will help “roll out a campaign to convince skeptical — or simply confused — Americans that the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” ( I can’t write that name without snorting)” is good for them and convince them that they should enroll in a health plan.”

Administration officials insist the ads won’t be political, but just before the 2010 midterm election, HHS spent $3.2 million on an ad campaign featuring the late actor Andy Griffith, who told his fellow old folks that “more good things are coming from Medicare,” but neglected to mention the dramatic cuts to 10 million Medicare Advantage members, who may have already seen their plans ended or can expect to see them end soon. FactCheck said: “The words in this ad ring hollow, and the promise that benefits will remain the same” is as fictional as the town of Mayberry, when Griffith played the local sheriff.

In fact ObamaCare is becoming more unpopular as people begin to “find out what’s in it,” to quote Nancy Pelosi, and are faced with the astonishing rise in their health care premiums or with losing them entirely. Of course, the Democrats sneaky attempt to excuse themselves and their staffs and employees from having to participate, was exposed by the national media, and should sour anyone who is still wavering on the supposed wonderfulness of ObamaCare.

The thing is, nobody did know what was in it, nor understood what the consequences  of what was in it were. There are always consequences. People respond to incentives and disincentives. Those who were responsible for drafting this bill were vaguely aware that they needed to figure out how to pay for it, so they decided to add a tax on medical devices. No big deal if granny had to pay a little extra for her walker.

The consequences were more complicated.  Many of the manufacturers of medical devices are small businesses operating on tight budgets, as startups usually do. It’s a rapidly changing field with lots of expensive research and development. They are laying off workers — in an economy already suffering from high unemployment. And in a specific industry with many layoffs, those workers will have a hard time finding a new job.  You can’t just put a new kind of stent, or a new kind of knee-joint out — they have to be tested on real people, and if they don’t work there’s a huge cost for insurance. Then you suddenly have a terrorist bombing in Boston and all sorts of people needing prosthesis. They didn’t plan on that kind of thing. Congress seems to agree that it was a bad idea and wants to repeal that part, but that’s complicated too.

The 22,000-member United Union of Roofers has issued a public statement calling for “repeal or complete reform” of ObamaCare. A Union. At no point since it passed has ObamaCare been regarded favorably by more than 45 percent, and the latest Kaiser Family Health Foundation pegs its nationwide support at only 37 percent.

Insurance premiums are expected to skyrocket next year, and it looks as if key parts of ObamaCare will miss their start date. Secretary Sebelius complained that “no one fully anticipated” the difficulties involved in setting up ObamaCare. (Republicans did) But of course she blamed “obstructionist Republicans” for engaging in “state-by-state political battles” to slow down the creation of the exchanges. Perhaps it would be less complicated if she hadn’t granted  waivers to cronies and Democrats.

Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), one of the main architects calls the bill “probably the most complex piece of legislation” ever passed by the U.S. Congress. Max Baucus (D-MO) says “I just see a huge train wreck coming.”  Coincidentally both Senators are retiring next year. A study by the Society of Actuaries has predicted that medical claims per policyholder will rise by 32 percent in the individual plans in the health care exchanges. In some states the increase could rise to 80 percent.

The Obama administration is preparing for the worst. Michael Cannon of Cato says they are getting ready to spend $600 billion that Congress never authorized on federally run state exchanges in order to ease the possibility of sticker shock. The old hide the increase game.

Advertising firm Weber Shandwick has their work cut out for them.  This is a real case of putting lipstick on a pig, and no matter how you pretty-up the pig, it remains a pig. An emotional appeal  with sob stories? A beloved character to be the public face? A tear-jerker with victims of Sandy, Newtown, or the Boston Marathon? The one thing they cannot do is tell the truth.
It is a pig of a law.




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