Despite increasingly low Healthcare.gov expectations set by the administration — from 'it'll work' to 'it'll work better than last month' — President Obama seems confident enough in the site to relaunch his health care PR blitz. On Tuesday, the Obama administration is touting how the Affordable Care Act is saving seniors money on prescription drug costs, and next week will hold a youth summit geared towards 18- to 35-year-olds. Meanwhile, Obama has been going back to his campaign roots by getting stories in local papers.
On Tuesday morning, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released new data that shows that, under Obamacare, 7.3 million seniors and individuals with disabilities have saved a total of $8.9 billion on Medicare Part D prescription coverage after reaching the "donut hole" gap in coverage, according to Mike Allen at Politico. That works out to a savings of about $866 per person, better than $677 last year. And this is a good time for the administration to start pushing the law's benefits to seniors — as we noted on Monday, the Independent Payment Advisory Board is set to recommend cost cutting recommendations for Medicare soon, which has seniors and politicians worried.
On the youth front, Obama is set to host a "youth summit" with 18 to 35 year olds, the Washington Post reported on Monday, to work on ways to encourage that demographic to enroll. But the centerpiece of his grass roots outreach has been hitting the local papers. According to Politico, the administration has focused their efforts in nine of the 10 cities with the highest concentrations of uninsured to try to circumvent the bad national press Obamacare is getting. The idea is that the people the president most wants to reach are more likely to get their news from local papers. Also, local papers are more likely to frontline a White House official, even if he doesn't have anything new to say. From Politico:
Josh Earnest, the principal deputy White House press secretary, got top billing in front page stories last week in The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg, S.C., The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., and the Portland Press Herald in Maine — offering the same talking points that the administration repeats daily in Washington without much notice.
This PR push coincides with a general consensus that the website is doing better and the "tech surge" is working. Enrollments have been coming in faster this month, and anecdotal evidence seems to lean towards the system being stronger. What's not completely ironed out, however, is the error with 834s, the electronic form an insurer receives when someone enrolls. According to The Hill, Medicare Services did not offer an update on that fix on Monday. Bob Laszewski, a health care consultant, told National Journal that the 834s are wrong about 5 percent of the time, based on his conversations with insurers, when it needs to be closer to 1 percent or less. But, other than that slightly critical bug, so far so good.