Selling Health Care Reform Until 2012—and Beyond

President Barack Obama and his allies have launched a new PR offensive to help sell health care law to the American public—and they’re prepared to keep pushing the issue well past Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. On Tuesday, Obama will kick off the effort with a nationally televised Q & A on $250 rebate checks that will help seniors pay for Medicare prescription drugs. Over 10,000 people are expected to participate over the phone in a “tele-town hall” with Obama for the event in Maryland. “But it is only an early hint of what is to come throughout the summer and fall, officials say, as other consumer-friendly provisions—a high-risk pool for hard-to-insure people, a Web site comparing coverage plans, tough new restrictions on insurers—take effect,” the New York Times explains.

A number of deep-pocketed outside groups will be amplifying the White House effort. Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle and Vicky Kennedy—Ted Kennedy’s wife—are expected to co-chair an independent, tax-exempt group called the Health Information Center to halt the spread of disinformation about health reform and to help states put the law into place, Politico reports. Staffed by Anita Dunn, the former White House communications director, as well as other veteran Democratic operatives, the group will have a hefty budget of $25 million a year over the next five years.

The scope of such efforts is just the latest reminder of the long road ahead for Obama’s health care law, both politically and policy-wise. Democrats tried to include concrete benefits that would take effect before the midterm elections, rightfully concerned that Republicans would try to make hay of the public’s mistrust of the bill. But the biggest changes will take years to implement: administration officials are still in the process of writing the regulations that aim to crack down on exploitative insurance practices, and the health insurance exchanges won’t be set up until 2014. Though their health care votes may help sink or save congressional Democrats this year, the bigger political test for the Democratic Party may be in 2012, when much more of the law will be in place—and the public expectations for change will be that much higher.