Monday, September 19, 2011

The Message We Must Communicate

(Originally posted on the National Physicians Alliance blog September 19, 2011)


Despite the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) being just about 1 1/2 years old, there are still many Americans who do not understand what the law means. Ironically, this includes a large number of uninsured Americans, who stand to benefit significantly from the law.

Some have argued that this lack of understanding results from poor messaging on the part of the Obama administration in that they have failed to communicate what the law's reforms will mean to the average person.  Others have argued that the law's benefits will be increasingly understood (and valued) as its benefits become apparent.  This has been the case in Massachusetts: as the Massachusetts law's benefits were realized, public support for the reform has increased (pdf).  The increased popularity of the Massachusetts health reform law may bode well for the PPACA, given the laws' similarities.  Indeed, there is an argument to be made that as the PPACA benefits individuals, it will be harder for politicians to repeal the law and do away with its reforms.

In that light, it is absolutely necessary for us to promote the PPACA's benefits.  We must let people know what the PPACA really does to benefit individuals and the nation as a whole.  While I think that the law will gain support with time, many reforms do not take full effect until 2014--after the next Presidential election--at which time the law may find itself politically vulnerable.  We must make sure we communicate the law's benefits whenever we can, even while we let it develop its own momentum.

To help us understand the message we must communicate, please review this article that dispassionately and clearly describes the changes that will result from the law.  I'll list the 10 points below, but the article will provide more context and background information:
  1. The PPACA will provide new insurance coverage to 32 million Americans.
  2. The individual mandate is not a "mandate"--it is a penalty for those who choose not to sign up for insurance, but it doesn't actually require anyone to sign up.
  3. The PPACA is projected to lower the national deficit.
  4. The law will lower Medicare spending.
  5. Under the PPACA, Medicaid coverage will be expanded (and, as an aside, physician reimbursement will increase).
  6. More than 500,000 young adults (under age 26) have already gained access to health insurance.
  7. The PPACA targets Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse.
  8. Maybe as a result of the targeting of fraud and abuse, Medicare spending increases have already started to slow.
  9. The PPACA will allow Americans to take better control of our own health by requiring restaurants to provide nutrition information for their food.
  10. The PPACA will directly target health care inequalities between races/ethnicities.
The gains embodied in the PPACA are already benefiting millions of Americans, including seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D who are getting more help with their medication costs and those Americans seeking preventive care without worrying about co-pays.  This law is too important to wait for its benefits to reach enough people that public support increases.  We must help it gain that momentum, and do our parts to communicate the PPACA's benefits and its real benefit to Americans.

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