Democrats Hone August Health Care Message, Republicans Plan Counter-Offensive
Democrats are finding points they agree on in a tenuous accord for the message they want to relay to constituents during the August recess: The health insurance industry is the bad guy, The Washington Post reports.
"With the House already gone and the Senate set to clear out by Friday, the terms of the recess battle are becoming clear. Republicans will assail the government coverage plan that Democrats and President Obama are advocating as a recklessly expensive federal takeover of health care. And Democrats will counter that GOP opposition represents a de facto endorsement of insurance industry abuses" (Murray and Kane, 8/3).
Kaiser Health News reports: "Health insurers are clearly the target of a 'pocket card' distributed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Overhauling the nation's health care system will 'hold insurance companies accountable' and guarantee 'stability, lower costs, higher quality and more choice of plans.'"
The Republican packet "says the Democrats' health plan includes more than $800 billion of new taxes that will eliminate up to 5.5 million jobs. A one-page description says the Republican version of health care legislation will 'expand access to affordable health care' and allow families 'the freedom to choose the health care that bests fits their needs'" (Carey and Pianin, 7/31).
Roll Call: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California "suggested Democrats will need to spend August in campaign mode against the insurers if they want to salvage a strong public insurance option. 'You have to address the opposition,' she said. 'You cannot let them define you without telling the public who is doing the defining'" (Newmyer, 8/3).
The Washington Post in a second story: During the recess, Pelosi "plans to stump for health-care reform in San Francisco, Denver and other cities. At stake is legislation that could define her legacy as speaker and shape President Obama's political future. Pelosi called health-care reform with a public insurance option 'the issue of an official lifetime'" (Rucker, 8/2).
The New York Times: "The (Democratic) effort will feature town-hall-style meetings by lawmakers and the president, including a swing through Western states by Mr. Obama, grass-roots lobbying efforts and a blitz of expensive television advertising. It is intended to drive home the message that revamping the health care system will protect consumers by ending unpopular insurance industry practices, like refusing patients with pre-existing conditions. The drumbeat will begin Monday, when Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, travels to Hartford to talk about what the White House now calls 'health insurance reform'" (Stolberg and Herszenhorn, 8/2).
Bloomberg: "The lawmakers will face a public skeptical about the plan's effect on quality of care, costs and medical options. A New York Times/CBS News poll found that 69 percent of Americans say they are concerned their care may get worse. The July 24-July 28 poll of 1,050 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points" (Jensen and Gaouette, 8/3).
Politico suggests Republicans may have an easier time of the message war for a while: " The Republicans have a relatively easy task in fighting health care reform - paint a vision of a post-reform health care apocalypse, rationed services and power-mad government bureaucrats taking away individual choice and even determining the quality of end-of-life care for seniors. The two main Democratic points - that reforms will save money and insure the 47 million uninsured - haven't taken hold" (Thrush, 8/3).
The Los Angeles Times reports: "Healthcare touches virtually every constituent and interest group directly, unlike more abstract issues like global warming. And though 47 million people have no health insurance, most Americans do. Voters may have responded well to the general idea of improving healthcare during the 2008 campaign, but many are less sanguine about the legislation's effect on them as Congress begins to fill in the details" (Hook, 8/3).
Labor unions and liberal advocacy groups are getting in on the action, to pressuring lawmakers into voting for health reform. The Hill reports they "will spend between $10 million and $20 million this month to twist lawmakers' arms over the stalled healthcare reform effort in Congress. Much of the grassroots activity and television ads will be aimed at persuading centrist Democrats and Republicans to support the creation of a robust government-run health insurance program."
"Many centrists have balked at the cost of pending healthcare proposals and are reluctant to embrace government competition in the insurance markets. The AFL-CIO and affiliated unions are planning a massive dual offensive on healthcare reform and labor law reform in August, budgeting $10 to $15 million on the effort, according to a senior labor official. The labor unions' advocacy will consist of mass mailings, running phone banks and distributing policy fliers at worksites" (Bolton, 8/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.