As Congress heads into summer recess, progressives want to take the health care debate to the grassroots – and fight back opposition the the landmark health legislation.
“Republicans are trying to kill Obamacare without offering nothing in return, without any suggestion for jobs, immigration, or gun control,” says Brad Woodhouse, from Americans United for Change, at a conference call held on Thursday. “Republicans have overplayed their hand; the time is ripe for the tide to turn,” says Woodhouse. “We are excited about our ability to promote Obamacare so that it can bring its benefits to the people.”
Two leading advocacy organizations, Protect Your Care and Americans United For Change, have joined forces to promote the Affordable Care Act (ACA)– popularly known as Obamacare—in some battleground states and demographic groups that could benefit the most from its implementation. The partnership entails a series of actions aimed at increasing the public awareness of the specifics of the law and at countering the onslaught led by Tea-Party Republicans in Capitol Hill. The House is expected to cast its 40th largely symbolic vote to defund the law.
As different groups debate the merits and implementation of the law, nearly one in three uninsured people in the U.S. are Hispanic, according to NCLR figures. Among undocumented immigrants, the rate of uninsured is significantly higher across all age groups, reaching 61 percent of those between 18 and 64 years old—the bulk of the immigrant working force.
Latino children are more than twice likely to be uninsured than white children, and of those who are covered nearly half receive their benefits through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), programs that would be seriously hit by an eventual shutdown of the Government in the fall.
The joint initiative is a response to the concern among Democratic strategists for a possible repeat of the summer of 2009, when a conservative wave took over the country and pummeled Obama’s health care proposal. Despite the passing of the law, just 34 percent of Americans in a recent NBC News/WSJ poll though it was a good idea. Woodhouse and his colleague Eddie Vale from Protect Your Care believe this negative view can be reversed with information. “When the law is properly explained, people support it,” says Vale.
Latino political scientist Allert Brown-Gort, Faculty Fellow at University of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies says misinformation has a lot to do with why Americans do not support the law. One of the provisions, for example, requires insurers only use 25 percent of their resources in administrative expenses, and that any overhead must be returned to their clients. This year, people started receiving refund checks, but few knew what that money was for.
“The government has been unable to advertise Obamacare in part because of the obstructionist ways of the GOP in Congress, which have already succeeded in defunding some programs that were key to that purpose,” says Brown-Gort.
Similarly, 69 percent of Latinos are confused about the ACA, but a majority of them support the law once it is explained to them, a Latino Decisions survey shows.
Brown-Gort also believes that there is a core of Tea Party Republicans –probably around 20 to 25 percent of voters–that will oppose Obamacare no matter what. Republicans like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul are responding to those groups, he says, “and will continue to do so both for ideological and for political reasons.”
But progressive groups believe there is plenty of room for the public’s acceptance of Obamacare to grow. The PYC /AUC initiative will therefore engage in townhall meetings, university roundtables, senior homes talks, door-to-door drives and other events coordinated with churches, community leaders, and groups such as Enroll America and Organizing for Action. Democratic strategists such as Stephanie Carter and Jackie Lee, a veteran of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns in Florida, will oversee the on-the-ground operations.
There will also be “truth squads” targeting conservative events, as well as media and advertising campaigns. The organizers said that a rolling schedule of events will be available by next week.
The efforts will be concentrated in ten states: Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Except for Illinois, all of those states’ legislatures have decided not to move forward with or have ongoing debates about expanding Medicaid under the ACA. Medicaid expansion is a crucial component of the law, amounting to about half of Obamacare’s insurance expansion.