After spending two months in a defensive crouch over the problem-riddled launch of healthcare.gov, the White House is shifting to offense with a new coordinated campaign to promote the benefits of Obamacare.
President Obama, starting Tuesday, will hold an event a day that will emphasize a different benefit of the law and try to remind Americans why Democrats pushed the law through Congress in the first place, according a White House official.
The event-a-day push, first reported by Politico, will continue through much of the holiday season until the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for January coverage.
The Obama administration coordinated the promotional blitz with Democratic allies on Capitol Hill and the party's campaign committees, all of which will be involved in pitching the daily message through press events and social media.
The new campaign to pitch the president’s signature domestic achievement comes after the White House declared it had met its Nov. 30 deadline of making major improvements to the website. Now top aides to the president say it's time to return to selling the health care plan to the public.
In remarks Tuesday, Obama will “focus attention back on the core principles of reform that have been lost in the attention on the website and invoke the successes that are flowing from the law and what it means for the millions of Americans who are already directly benefitting,” a White House official said in a statement.
“And he will make clear what the cost of repealing the law would be for these middle-class families who have already begun to rely on these benefits,” the official added.
The promotional push is coming at an uncertain time for the new health care law's fate. The White House is furiously trying to make up lost ground after the first two critical months of enrollment produced only a fraction of the enrollees the administration believed was necessary to give the law a stable start.
The president's poll numbers also have sunk to new lows in critical questions of trust and management ability after mass health care insurance cancellations undermined his repeated promise that, under Obamacare, Americans could keep the plans they liked.
The president has little choice but to get back to the sales pitch if the law has any chance of attracting the number of young people it needs to make it sustainable over the long run. But the holiday sales pitch is also risky with the reworked healthcare.gov website's functionality still fragile.
Starting Monday, the website is now supposed to be able to handle 50,000 concurrent users. But at roughly 10 a.m. Monday morning, the website began using queuing software to tell users there was a wait time because traffic was high. At the time an administration spokeswoman said the site had fewer than 40,000 users, somewhere in the “mid-30,000” range.
If the website produces any more headaches for users, Republicans are ready to pounce.
As House Republicans return from the Thanksgiving break this week they plan to focus fresh scrutiny of the botched health care rollout with four hearings.
On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health will hold a general hearing on the topic, the same day the House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing on the business implications of the law and the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health plans to look into what Medicare Advantage beneficiaries should expect under Obamacare.
On Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will cap the week with a field hearing in Apache Junction, Ariz. That will focus on the consequences of the president’s broken promise that consumers could keep current plans.