Tuesday night will mark President Barack Obama’s fifth State of the Union Address. One of the critical issues facing the Obama administration is whether the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” will be successful or if a Republican alternative to the widely publicized health care reform would be a better choice. Obama’s success in addressing the American public on the issue of Obamacare will likely be a strong indicator of the law’s possibility for success.
The State of the Union address is given annually by the President to a joint session of Congress. The purpose of the address is to discuss the current state of issues that are significant to the American public, as well as give Congress an idea of what to expect from the president over the course of the coming year. Now that it’s televised, the entire American public has a chance to tune in to the president’s remarks as well.
Last year, Obama didn’t mention the Affordable Care Act at all in his State of the Union address. But one of the biggest challenges the Obama administration has faced since the last address was the tumultuous implementation of some of the Affordable Care Act’s key provisions. Healthcare.gov, the site that was supposed to register unprecedented numbers of Americans for affordable health insurance, was pretty much out of service for the first two months of open enrollment. But now, with the site up and running and a good number of Americans enrolled in plans through Obamacare, Obama has a chance to increase enrollment through Tuesday night’s address.
Here are a few things Obama will need to do to up enrollment in the government’s insurance marketplaces following tonight’s address:
1. Don’t apologize anymore: It was the apology heard ‘round the world this past November: “I am sorry that [people who thought they would be able to keep their health coverage] are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” Obama told NBC News. “We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”
During Tuesday’s address, Obama will do better focusing on the positive aspects of the law, rather than the administration’s missteps. He apologized already. No need to revisit.
2. Use statistics: About 3 million Americans have signed up for Obamacare thus far, according to ABC News. And, while that number is well below the administration’s target, the State of the Union address offers an opportunity for Obama to discuss the details of those Americans including age demographics, the type of plans they chose, and whether the people who signed up were previously uninsured.
3. Tell the stories of actual Americans who have benefited from the law: Emotional appeals really work. One of the most compelling arguments in favor of Obamacare has been the stories of people with pre-existing conditions who found themselves in dire financial hardship because they were unable to receive coverage. Early reports indicate that Obama has invited those who have benefited from Obamacare to sit in on the address. Telling the stories of previously uninsured people for whom health care reform has worked may be Obama’s most rewarding argument in favor of Obamacare.
The State of the Union address will air on all major television networks starting at 9 p.m. EST.