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Obama’s State Of The Union Opportunity — Be The ‘Navigator-In-Chief’

Memo Pad Politics

Obama’s State Of The Union Opportunity — Be The ‘Navigator-In-Chief’


No can say with certainty how many working Americans have gained Medicaid coverage thanks to Obamacare in the last few months.

President Obama’s supporters recently trumpeted an estimate of around five million. Charles Gaba — whose now-famous spreadsheet at ACASignups.net has been cited by White House officials — says the number may be as high as 6.4 million. Journalist Sean Trende estimates that “no more than 1.9 million” have gained coverage through Medicaid expansion. He attributes the rest of the enrollments to previously eligible people who simply signed up for existing benefits.

What we know for sure is that since Obamacare’s open enrollment began, millions of previously uninsured Americans now have government-subsidized health insurance, in addition to the 2.2 million who have picked a private plan. The creation of online marketplaces seems to have a halo effect of encouraging people who were previously eligible for a state-run plan to get coverage.

The resurrection of HealthCare.gov gives the administration new hope of meeting its goal of getting millions of people — including as many healthy individuals as possible — to pick private plans while enrolling as many of the 14 million Americans just above the poverty level who are eligible for Medicaid expansion.

While the online exchanges make this goal possible, many people may be turned off by how the site works.

Even without the painful delays that plagued the first two months of HealthCare.gov, customers do not find out if they will benefit from tax credits and subsidies available to 17 million middle-class Americans until they enter information about their employer and income. This process can feel “pretty arduous,” according to health care expert Adrianna McIntyre, especially to people who have never signed up for health insurance.

Time Magazine’s Stephen Brill tells the story of a man with cancer whose family finally has decent health insurance due to the health reforms enacted by a president they despise. However, they needed help from an insurance broker to get through their resistance to the law and help pick out a plan that worked best for them.

To combat the challenge of picking a plan, the Affordable Care Act includes funding for navigators to help with the enrollment process. (And to combat the invaluable help the navigators offer, Republicans have conjured various ways of sabotaging their efforts.)

President Obama will have an enormous opportunity this month to help direct the millions of uninsured Americans who have not yet started or completed enrolling in a health care plan. Last year about 33 million Americans watched the president deliver his State of the Union address. If that audience resembled America, about 85 percent of them got their insurance through their employers. But as many as five million of those watching lacked coverage that would satisfy the individual mandate.

The president can deliver two invaluable messages in this year’s address. First he can encourage those who do not know if they’re eligible for tax credits to find out, either by going through the enrollment process or simply checking out an online subsidy calculator. Next he can direct those who think they need help from someone in their area to the navigator finder on HealthCare.gov.

This State of the Union comes at a crucial time for the future of health care reform, which has already proven to be a potent way of getting people to take advantage of benefits they may not have been aware of.

Now, with just over two months until the deadline for enrollment, the president doesn’t need to sell the law. He just needs to make it easy for those who will benefit most from it to find out what they may be missing.

AFP Photo/Karen Bleier




  1. Dominick Vila January 21, 2014

    The upcoming State of the Union address could be an opportunity for President Obama to establish a contrast between where we were in January 2009 and where we are today, but doing so would be so out of character for a man who re.lies on the intelligence and pragmatism of his fellow citizens that even dreaming of what such reminder would do for those who rely on FOX News, Rush, Glenn, Palin and the rest of the gang to form an opinion is simply a waste of time. President Obama is a non-confrontational person, and he is paying dearly for the strength of his character and his inclination to respect the opinion of others.
    The truth, behind the veneer of chaos the GOP suggests time and again, is that our economy has improved tremendously since its decrepit condition in January 2009. Gone are the days when the order of the day was the imminent collapse of the U.S. economy, unambiguously predicted by former President Bush, when American industrial icons were on the verge of bankruptcy, when foreclosures and bankruptcies were the order of the day, when our banking industry was gasping for air and begging for a bailout (TARP), when we depended on foreign investment and credits to stay afloat, when hundreds of young Americans were being killed or maimed in two wars that should have never taken place, when the mastermind of 9/11 remained at large and an impotent President was forced to acknowledge that his capture was not a big deal, when torture became an “enhanced interrogation technique”, and when our international credibility was not worth the paper it was written on.
    We need a reminder of the days the GOP, unabashedly, want to take us back to, but President Obama will not do that. He will, instead, focus on the future and try, once again, to show us the path to prosperity while those who are incapable to come up with a positive idea limit their proposals to calling him a liar…while the fruit of his achievements is everywhere for us to see.

    1. latebloomingrandma January 21, 2014

      I hope I live long enough for history to show and acknowledge how important and successful his Presidency was. And how history treats GW Bush.

      1. CherMoe January 22, 2014

        They say our children’s text books are written and distributed out of the state of Texas. That dims my hope that the history books will show the truth. There are many parts of history that are “skewed” to show our country in the best light possible, as well. If we could count on the truth being put into our history, the true assassins of JFK and numerous others would be named. Same thing with the true perpetrators of 9/11. All the players.

      2. Rumionemore January 22, 2014

        I ask this question is all seriousness:
        If Obama were to leave office today, what would you name as his greatest achievement or success? In fact, provide two or three, if you wish.

    2. CherMoe January 22, 2014

      Extraordinarily well said, my friend.

    3. Rumionemore January 22, 2014

      Obama called for the surge of troops to Afghanistan, costing the U.S. billions more in treasury and hundreds of thousands of lives, NATO and civilian. He made that decision. He has as much blood on his hands as any other president in war times. Re: terrorism – Osama bin Laden began to stir in earnest during the Clinton years. That president was too engaged in domestic affairs to have time to tackle that problem. When the embassy bombings occurred, it was too late. By the time Obama had spent billions going after bin Laden, he was a sick, ailing old man spending his days surfing porn and making “Who I Want to Kill Next” lists. He didn’t even have enough human security to protect him. Just his wives.

  2. Allan Richardson January 21, 2014

    If the President is unwilling to fight, he will not win. He needs to make an aggressive case, but a positive one. If he simply complains about the GOP program of continuous sabotage, he will be caricatured by them as a whiner: “Waah! You aren’t playing fair!” He needs to lay out, in issue after issue, how DESPITE obstruction (and specify the type of obstruction in each case), we were STILL ABLE to do this (specify with names and numbers), starting with the bank and auto bailouts, through to the health care rollout. It wouldn’t hurt if evidence of actual TECHNICAL sabotage could be found, as in a Republican “mole” working on the web site obviously making coding or design errors which have since been corrected. This could be mentioned in the speech with wording such as “DESPITE numerous coding errors, some of which have been isolated to a few programmers deliberately inserting incorrect code, but ALL of which have since been CORRECTED, the healthcare.gov web site has STILL managed to sign up __ million families on affordable plans who could not get usable insurance due to pre-existing conditions, and …” Of course, at the same time, the particulars of both the sabotage and the correction (redacted to protect confidential customer data) would be made available in writing, in a press release on the web site, to which he could refer in answer to a later press conference question.

    Basically, he has to tell the American people that the GOP is actively TRYING to make the economy worse for 98 percent of Americans, NOT simply disagreeing with the President on how to make it better. After all, if their policies COULD make it better, the crash of 2008 would not have happened. And he also has to tell us that, with the help of millions of Americans who worked WITH him, and voted FOR him a second time, he has managed to make tremendous progress FOR US despite the obstruction. And close by saying he is looking forward to working with Congress for the rest of this year, and with NEW MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE next year who are even MORE willing to work together (implying, but not actually stating, that “willing to work together” means “Democrats”) to finish the task of raising American living standards for all Americans together.

    Meanwhile, others (such as the underemployed Vice President) should be telling audiences across the country, in MORE FORCEFUL language, what the 30+ years of Reaganomics have done to REVERSE the progress made up to that point in the War on Poverty.

    1. 4sanity4all January 21, 2014

      Allan, excellent post. I hope the President is planning to do some, or all, of what you have suggested. He has been too much of a gentleman, and it is time to call out the B.S. and tell America what he HAS managed to do for us. Only a few liberals who read extensively are aware of all he has accomplished in spite of the obstruction. Imagine how our economy would be buzzing along if he had gotten even 30% cooperation from Congress.

    2. Rumionemore January 22, 2014

      Every president in the past 2-3 decades has had more success wrangling their Congresses into action than Obama, including Bill Clinton. George Bush 2 had more success than the O-Man has had.I hesitate to say, as many have, that he can’t lead. I think he has shown moments that he can, but he does not have a presidential touch with his Congress or with the business community (except being able to take money from its biggest donors).

      Obama seems to be passive aggressive, and maybe a little bit of an introvert. He didn’t have much of a resume for the job to begin with – I would never had hired him in my company based on his achievements – and I see what some call arrogance as a lack of confidence. Maybe he should have been a college professor. He could posture, pontificate and be admired by his students.

      1. Allan Richardson January 22, 2014

        Another factor — which, I agree, Obama should have taken into account sooner, because others have detected it sooner — is that the opposition has moved to such an extreme that their LEADING spokespeople have become so fanatical that they no longer CARE about governing responsibility. They are WORSE in this respect than Nixon, or even Joe McCarthy, demonizing not only the opposing party, but anyone who deviates even slightly from their most rigid ideology. Even Jesus Christ Himself would not be able to get any co-operation from them at this point. They have reacted to the election, and re-election, of Obama ALMOST as violently as the Southern states did to the election of Lincoln (they only reason they have not gone that far yet may be the fact that federal forces are so overwhelmingly superior to even a 28 state coalition of National Guards, and not enough National Guard troops are willing to go to war with the federal armed forces).

        And his election came along just as the racists have been emboldened by Tea Party rhetoric (point of note: despite being obviously a white man, some Confederates pretended Lincoln was part black, being the only way THEY could understand his having ANY sympathy with abolitionists), and while the majority of opponents are NOT racists, the racism adds the extra “hot sauce” to the recipe. Otherwise, why would there be signs portraying him as the stereotyped African cannibal medicine man?

        I hope he finally realizes that only a DIFFERENT Congress can be expected to make reasonable deals for the benefit of the American people, and I hope the voters deluded by “government is bad” rhetoric realize that government is NOT bad; BAD government is bad, and there is a difference. And that DE FACTO government by corporate power is WORSE than even incompetent government under the law. He has done remarkable things in spite of the obstruction of the GOP, and if the people give him a better Congress, he could indeed work miracles.

        1. Rumionemore January 23, 2014

          There is a monumental divide on both sides, and there are extremes on both sides. Strong leadership could make a difference. My point: it does not appear to be coming from the White House, and in this case I am referencing not just Obama but also his entire team. Maybe Podesta can turn his image around, but it has suffered badly. He better be quick about it. Like Bob Gates or not, he made these same points about Mr. Obama in his new book. Many of us, though, did not have to wait for Gates to point to them.

          Right up front I admit a prejudice against Obama, but it is not his race. It was – and is – his inexperience, his obvious discomfort with taking the helm and showing a temper if necessary. Business leaders are baffled by him and have been from day one. They gladly give him contributions, especially the big financial institutions, but they are not going to move forward with creation of serious jobs until he is out of office. In the meantime, they can do business outside the U.S. or continue to sit on their big money.

          Maybe Mr. Podesta will advise him to leave campaign mode – yes, he won twice, good for him! – and go into a very tough leadership mode. At this point, what does Mr. President in his second term have to lose? Mrs. Clinton probably will not run, so he owes nothing to her. He must step aside of party politics and lead the country that twice elected him and is counting on him. He needs to break free of his advisors, some too close to him in a personal way, call Reid and Boehner to the table, and go from there.

  3. disqus_fsqeoY3FsG January 21, 2014

    Sorry posted to the wrong article…

  4. Kurt CPI January 21, 2014

    The President has an opportunity for the first time in his Presidency to give a State of the Union address on the heels of a bipartisan win. He can win conservative (or at least independent) voters by pointing out the “good” parts of Republican ideals, and then demonstrating how his administration’s policies can go further toward facilitating them than Republican policy. America is sick of the divisiveness, regardless of who’s to blame. To appear as a unifying leader, and call the republican’s bluff by embracing cross-party ideals and outdoing them in implementation would send his approval rating soaring.

  5. charles king January 21, 2014

    The American People better wake up and find out Where? is their Democracy gone. Why? can’t they the American people or find out the facts about Their Health care system, just do some (Critical Thinking) about What ? the hell is going on, I am eighty-four years old, I am a Korean War Veteran and I am in good health, I think I will make a hundred, I got Obama Health Care, What? the hell ” You have to have to have a Republican tell You “OBAMA Care is NOT for you” Well? I am here to tell you “shame on You for being so stupid” People, Wake up an smell the roses Because ” Obama Care is the best thing that has happen to and for the American’s People since The Civil Rights ACTS, and you have a President Who? is going by the rules that Democracy provide him with, Of, For, By, the People is What? the Man is fighting for YOU, Think People What the hell do it take for You , The People, You Were Not born yesterday, Lets get busy , and get out there and SIGN-UP FOR OBAMA CARE. Thank You are the magic wirds in my book. I Love Ya All. Check-out Webster’s Dict. Plutocracy Vs Democracy Which one do you Perfer. C. E. King

  6. Rumionemore January 22, 2014

    Navgiator? Obama’s vessel has already sunk.
    Healthcare will continue to be a fiasco, so any references he makes to that in his speech may come back to haunt him.”He lied again.” He certainly can’t boast about his foreign policy record, and if he tries to lay out future plans, he already has the reputation as a talker rather than an actor.

    Income inequality? He has no idea what to do. He is full of memes and pushes blame to the rich, knowing that it is the middle class that will pick up the tab for any programs and ideas he has to solve that problem or any other. He will not speak to breaking up big banks, because they are a huge part of his donor base.This will be the first presidential state of the union address I have missed in decades, but I no longer care what the O-Man has to say. Every time he opens his mouth, it moves the country backward. Only desperate or naive people would place any stock in any word he utters.

  7. G26 January 25, 2014

    As Germany proved in the first half of the 20th century, majority public opinion can be swayed enough in times of crisis to empower those who stand against liberty and prosperity.


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