In one of recent history’s most amazing coincidences, the day the federal government “shut down” happens to be the very same day that the statewide health insurance exchanges forming the core of the Affordable Care Act start up. The number of conflicting messages delivered by parties with diametrically opposed goals is enough to make you dizzy.
The big focus so far has been on tech issues. Yesterday Department of Health and Human Services head Kathleen Sebelius told reporters that, because operational glitches are inevitable, the public should “give us the same slack you give Apple”; President Obama made the same argument in a later speech on the shutdown-rollout event. On the other side of the aisle, Fox News debuted a running “ObamaCare glitch watch” thread to chronicle every problem reported by users.
Whatever happens regarding the law, today and the weeks ahead will make for a great case study in future public relations courses because all statements amount to strategic political positioning. It’s almost certainly safe to say that a majority of those logging in and reporting on the exchanges do so with either political or journalistic goals in mind, so here’s a review of competing messages: