, Newburyport, MA


March 29, 2014

Shribman: Learning from Obamacare


-- Politics is a matter of sales as much as substance.

Obama surely should have known this, he being one of the masters of this discipline. He, after all, was able to sell the American people on the notion that a little-known U.S. senator only four years out of the Illinois statehouse was a plausible candidate to break a 22-decade racial barrier to the presidency. In that context, selling a fundamental good to a country that prided itself on its sense of justice and fairness was easy in comparison.

He failed to do so. In fact, having won the ground war (the gritty effort to push the legislation through Congress), he lost the air war (on cable and on talk radio, and then in the mainstream press) on health care.

-- Be honest about what you are selling.

Here is a fundamental Obama failure, in two dimensions. The first was the claim, perhaps disingenuous, perhaps sloppy, that Americans could keep the health care plans they had under the new legislation. This was demonstrably false.

The second: One of the flaws of Obamacare is that it promised more than it delivered. “This plan was designed to make people feel good, but not to solve the problem,” says David W. Scott, president of the Ohio Valley General Hospital in McKees Rocks, Pa. “We’re insuring the uninsured, but for all intents and purposes people don’t have the care they need because of the high deductibles, and they don’t have access to preventive care and their basic needs.”

-- The sales pitch must include an honest reckoning of limitations and likely problems.

The Obama administration sold its health care initiative as requiring little more effort than filling out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket and as providing comprehensive care for everyone. That just wasn’t so.

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