Nervous OFA Goes on Offense Over Obamacare

Obama-backing group announces seven-figure ad buy touting Obamacare

Obama speaks at OFA dinner in March / AP
June 17, 2013

Organizing for Action (OFA), the shadowy nonprofit activist group that evolved from the president’s campaign, is stepping up its defense of his controversial health care law, signaling to some that the group is increasingly worried about a political backlash against the law.

OFA announced a seven-figure ad buy on Monday for a 30-second spot touting the law’s supposed benefits. It also rolled out an activist program called "Team Obamacare" to "stand up to the conservative attacks, and tell the story of how Obamacare is working."

The effort comes in the midst of news that Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act is commonly known, will significantly raise insurance premiums in some states, and may increase rates for many hourly wage-earners.

Implementation of the law has proved a headache for the administration. Even some of the law’s most strident supporters have said that it is "just beyond comprehension" and could be a "train wreck" if it is not implemented correctly.

Problems with implementation and the law’s apparent failure to bring down insurance premiums, as its supporters routinely said it would, have Republicans convinced that their opposition to the law will be a political winner in next year’s midterm elections.

Experts say OFA’s aggressive attempt to defend the law is a tacit recognition of its political pitfalls.

Ben Domenech, a health care policy expert with the Heartland Institute, noted that recent polls show the law is more unpopular than it has ever been.

"OFA is nervous about more than just the poll numbers," Domenech added in an email to the Washington Free Beacon. "They need to convince enough young and healthy people to purchase insurance, or more expensive insurance, in the coming months in order to offset the premium rate spikes actuaries anticipate."

The law prohibits insurance companies from taking customers’ health history into account when setting insurance rates. It depends on an influx of younger, healthier insurance customers in order to offset the increased cost of insuring the less healthy.

"With the public largely disengaged from the law's new realities, the first year of implementation could prove particularly awful if the sick sign up and the young and healthy don't," Domenech said.

The administration’s push to get people to sign up for health insurance has already sparked allegations by some lawmakers of official wrongdoing.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently pressured major health insurers to donate to a nonprofit group with deep ties to the administration that is working to support Obamacare by signing people up for health insurance.

Republicans see Sebelius’ activity as scandalous.

"It fits into that narrative Republicans are building not only about incompetence in the executive branch but also dishonesty," GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak told Newsmax.

"This is a good issue for Republicans," Mackowiak said. "We want to maximize it."

OFA’s push appears to be an attempt to reverse that trend and help Democrats reclaim the health care issue ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. The group did not respond to a request for comment.

"OFA's propaganda campaign might move the needle slightly, but it's more likely that they're preaching to the dedicated minority of Americans who already thought Obamacare was great," Domenech said.

"But they've got to try something," he added, "because their argument that people need to buy more insurance than they need for a higher price than they ought to pay just for the sake of the public good isn't very convincing."