Obamacare’s federal exchange will open for enrollment on October 1st. How smoothly that happens may depend on grassroots Democratic activists helping family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. (More)
Here at BPI we often write about Fred Whispering: one-to-one, usually face-to-face political discussions with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. It’s an important topic because research shows that mere facts rarely change people’s minds. Because we evolved to value social bonds over empirical evidence, people are more likely to change their minds when new information comes from someone they know and trust. And research shows that face-to-face conversations are more powerful than social media.
And with an issue as polarized and confusing as Obamacare, that will matter a lot. Fred, our archetypal median voter, chose President Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. Fred was among the 130 million Americans who voted last year. But as Jonathan Alter notes in The Center Holds, only 10-20 million of us read a newspaper, watch cable news, listen to talk radio, read political websites, or watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.
Like the vast majority of Americans, Fred is busy with his job and his family and their lives. But he’s not stupid or ill-informed. In 2012 the Obama campaign asked over 100 swing voters to keep online diaries about issues and their feelings. The diaries revealed that, for Fred, news is personal. He doesn’t follow the latest unemployment statistics, but he knows if his friends have found or lost jobs. He can’t cite national housing market data, but he knows if someone in his neighborhood sold their house, or were forced to by foreclosure. He worries about health care because he knows families who went bankrupt after an illness or injury.
Those stories, the Obama campaign’s research found, mattered far more to Fred than the stories in the national news.
Fred has heard about Obamacare, and may already be enjoying some of its benefits if he’s already insured. But if he’s not already insured, Fred may not know that he and his family are among the millions of Americans who will be able to buy affordable, quality health insurance through federal or state exchanges next year, or that open enrollment for those exchanges starts October 1st.
And that’s where you come in. That last link is to HealthCare.gov, Obamacare’s official website. If you haven’t yet visited the site, take an hour or so to look around on it. Look at their Q&A page for general information. Step through their questionnaire, using your personal information or information for family or friends, and see how the site works. Try out the live chat feature and talk with an Obamacare expert.
As a grassroots Democratic activist, you don’t need to become a health insurance policy wonk. But if Fred asks a question about Obamacare, you need to be able to walk him through HealthCare.gov and help him get started.
For Fred, news is personal. He needs to hear it from someone he knows and trusts. Someone like you.