Sen. Max Baucus made a splash in the political news cycle today after voicing concerns with how the Obama administration is handling public outreach on the impacts of the Affordable Care Act. During a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee this morning, Baucus, the chairman of the committee, reaffirmed his stance that "this is a good law" but told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that it can't work "if people don't understand it."
“I hear from people on the ground in Montana that they are confused about the health care law," Baucus said, according to a press release from the meeting. "For the insurance marketplaces to work, people need to know their options and how to enroll. I want families’ lives to be easier, and I want small businesses to focus on job creation, not confusion. The administration must use every day between now and October 1 to have insurance marketplaces up and running.”
News quickly began to orbit around a different quote from Baucus this morning, in which he stated there's a "huge train wreck" ahead for the administration if it doesn't work to improve the public's knowledge of the healthcare reform measure. The intense focus trained on that colorful comment—particularly the reiteration of it in headlines—appeared to insinuate a flip-flop in Baucus' support for the Affordable Care Act itself, a point reflected in numerous comments from readers criticizing the Senator for backing the measure to begin with. In fact, he was simply stressing that a majority of America doesn't fully grasp what the law will actually do. Baucus, a chief author of the Affordable Care Act, backed that assertion by citing a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation that shows 57 percent of Americans feel they don't fully understand the impacts of the law because they lack adequate information. That figure leaps to 68 percent among households with an income less than $40,000. Politico reports that Sebelius attempted to defend the administration's efforts:
Sebelius also said that people will be in the states this summer to inform people about the law. She said HHS officials and the Small Business Administration are holding webinars and seminars and will be holding more through the summer.
But when Baucus asked for the number of people and which states, Sebelius declined to reveal specifics.
"We need data," Baucus said. "You never give me any data. You give me concepts, frankly."