People-to-people contacts will be key, and the potential for patchwork results is real.
“Obviously it’s a possibility in terms of there being some real difficulties,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., whose efforts helped pass the law. Casey also said he believes the Obama administration will be ready to lead in states holding back.
Disparities already are cropping up.
Town Meeting Day — the first Tuesday in March — is a storied tradition in Vermont, and this year it provided a platform to educate residents about their options under the health care law. As many as 250,000 may eventually get coverage through Vermont Health Connect, as the state’s marketplace is known.
“Even before we were a state, these town meetings existed,” said Sean Sheehan, director of education and outreach. “It’s a way people come together as a community, and we are counting on those community connections to get the word out.” The health care plan was on the agenda at about 100 town meetings, and other local gatherings are taking place.
Texas residents are entitled to the same benefits as Vermonters, but in the state with the highest proportion of its population uninsured, Gov. Rick Perry will not be promoting the federal insurance exchange, a spokeswoman said. Nor does Perry plan to expand Medicaid.
The result is a communications void that civic and political groups, mayors, insurers and hospitals will try to fill.
“You have people who aren’t really charged up about it because they don’t even know that they would qualify,” said Durrel Douglas, spokesman for the Texas Organizing Project, an activist group. A national poll this week by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that two of every three uninsured people don’t know enough about the law to understand how it will affect them.