Oklahoma City's News 9 ran a story this week about the state’s low enrollment numbers in the Affordable Care Act exchange, but it failed to mention how much so-called “Obamacare” has been demonized by Republican state leaders and The Oklahoman editorial page.
In the story, reported by Dana Hertneky, one local insurance agent says, “ . . . there is a lot of fear and resistance” to signing up for insurance here under the ACA.
Well, why is there such fear and resistance? It seems obvious.
State Republican leaders from Attorney General Scott Pruitt to Gov. Mary Fallin have been outspoken critics of the ACA since it was signed into law. Pruitt has even filed a lawsuit against it. In editorial after editorial, The Oklahoman has relentlessly—on a weekly basis—used fear mongering, the language of crisis and rhetorical subterfuge to distort the basic facts about the ACA. The GOP nationally has used the ACA site rollout problems as a political cudgel against President Barack Obama.
All this, reported ad nauseam by the media here, means that many Oklahomans simply don’t realize the basic idea that they can now get health insurance and, in many cases, get government subsidies to pay for it. What they hear instead is that the world is coming to an end because everyone can now get health insurance.
A report shows that approximately 32,000 Oklahomans have signed up for insurance under the ACA even though some 600,000 residents are eligible, according to the News 9 story. It should be noted that News 9 has also participated in the avalanche of criticism leveled against the ACA.
What if Oklahoma had created its own exchange? What if state leaders, such as Fallin, were appearing in public service advertisements urging people to enroll in the program? Here’s another one: What if Thunder star Kevin Durant was appearing in a widely played commercial aired on game nights promoting the new insurance program.
My point is that many of our current state leaders are deliberately and through omission trying to sabotage what they derisively call Obamacare. The local media, and especially The Oklahoman, are complicit in this tragedy, and it is a tragedy because thousands of people in Oklahoma are going without adequate health care because of it.
So far, 4.2 million people have signed up on the health insurance exchanges throughout the country and with the deadline for enrollment looming that number will surely rise.
Republicans nationally are banking on the fact that opposition to the ACA will help them in elections next November, but that could wind up to be a major error in political calculation. It’s a long time between now and November, and as the days go on, more and more people will get enrolled under the ACA system. Meanwhile, word will get out eventually, even here, that affordable health insurance is now available for the uninsured.
Instead of just reporting “Obamascare” stories maybe local media outlets here could also help people get better health care by simply showing them how to enroll for insurance under the ACA.