Liberal groups to counter anti-Obama healthcare efforts in August

President Obama gestures to the audience before speaking about the Affordable Healthcare Act in the East Room of the White House on July 18, 2013.
(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

With tea party Republicans threatening to shut down the government in an effort to roll back President Obama’s healthcare law, several progressive groups are teaming up in a new effort to convince skeptical voters of the benefits of the new law.

During the August recess, Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care plan to counter efforts by Republicans to disparage the law. The groups will stage protests at GOP events, organize their own town halls to publicize its perks, and provide “air cover” to the law’s defenders.

Republicans “have overplayed their hand and that gives us the opportunity to go on offense,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change. The two groups, he said, will emphasize benefits of the 2010 law, including the prohibition on insurance companies’ turning away Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Though some individual aspects of the law are popular, the Obama administration is still struggling to convince Americans of the need for the law, which Obama partisans see as central to his legacy. Forty-seven percent of Americans said the 2010 law was “a bad idea” in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey, compared to 34 percent who said it was a good idea. Respondents were split over whether Republicans should work to prevent the law from fully taking effect.


On Thursday, Woodhouse would not say how much the groups hope to raise for their effort, but said the campaign would include an aggressive rapid response component, ground operations in key states, web videos and possibly television ads.

So far, the two groups have hired consultants in 10 states — Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin — many of which are presidential battleground states. They will be working with other advocacy groups and labor unions, including the Center for American Progress, SEIU, AFSCME and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Other liberal groups are working to persuade uninsured people to sign up for the healthcare programs when open enrollment begins this fall. More than 50 million Americans are currently without coverage, and allies of the president are targeting young people, Latinos and women as they attempt to make the roll-out a success before the 2014 elections. The program’s viability will hinge on persuading young and healthy Americans to sign up for coverage to offset the effect of insuring older and less healthy Americans.

Organizing for Action, the nonprofit offshoot of the 2012 Obama campaign, is encouraging its supporters to participate in a series of events celebrating the healthcare law Sunday, which is the president’s birthday. Local activists have scheduled house parties and gatherings in Santa Monica, Oak Park, West Hollywood, Lakewood and Pasadena that will include phone banking and informational tables at parks and churches.

Another nonprofit group, Enroll America, is helping lead a multimillion-dollar campaign to prod Americans to sign up for insurance this fall, in part by partnering with hospitals and health clinics, and engaging volunteers to go door to door and educate voters about the new law.

Beginning Oct. 1, Americans who don’t already get health insurance through their employers can shop for plans on Internet-based marketplaces known as exchanges in each state. Coverage benefits will begin next year.

Twitter: @maevereston