Democrats Move Away From Health Cost Pitch, Focus On Changing Senior Minds
Democrats are "dramatically shifting their attempts to defend health care legislation, abandoning claims that it will reduce costs and deficit, and instead stressing a promise to 'improve it,'" Politico reports. "The messaging shift was circulated this afternoon on a conference call and PowerPoint presentation organized by FamiliesUSA - one of the central groups in the push for the initial legislation. The call was led by a staffer for the Herndon Alliance, which includes leading labor groups and other health care allies. It was based on polling from three top Democratic pollsters, John Anzalone, Celinda Lake, and Stan Greenberg." The presentation lists "do's" and "do not's" and is aimed at winning over a skeptical public. "The presentation also concedes that the fiscal and economic arguments that were the White House's first and most aggressive sales pitch have essentially failed. 'Many don't believe health care reform will help the economy,' says one slide." The list also says that Democrats shouldn't say the law will reduce costs or the deficit (Smith, 8/19).
The Washington Post reports that Democrats in the meantime are courting seniors to sell them on the law to gain support ahead of midterm elections. Democrats "have struggled to maintain support among seniors in recent years, even as they have racked up large margins among young adults. Voters older than 65 were the one age group that did not back Barack Obama in 2008, and their disenchantment has only grown since he took office - especially after his health-care overhaul was passed this year." Seniors also "remain slightly more negative about the Democratic-backed health-care overhaul than the general public, according to polls" (Somashekhar, 8/20).
The Hill reports that Republicans in the meantime are using "new figures regarding unemployment and the deficit to argue that the healthcare reform law is bad for the economy. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, said the Congressional Budget Office's mid-year budget outlook forecasts years of red ink despite the new law. 'Democrats argued that their massive health care plan would get the deficit under control, but we can see now that was simply smoke and mirrors,'" Gregg said. "Congressional Democrats and the White House say they never claimed that healthcare reform by itself would turn the government's fiscal situation around." (Pecquet, 8/19).
In other health politics news, CNN reports: "A new analysis by Campaign Media Analysis Group for CNN shows that federal and state political candidates have spent $24 million on anti-health care reform television commercials since Congress passed the bill in late March. Over the past 30 days alone, more than $6 million has been spent on TV ads attacking the law, and there is no sign these commercials are going away." In the meantime, Democrats are being "instructed to promote their independence from the party, and from Capitol Hill" by other top Democratic strategists (Preston, 8/20).
Time: Polls that show health reform's popularity rising in the past few months have the White House hoping "to continue that upward trend, especially as some of the new law's benefits kick in within weeks. Beginning Sept. 23, for instance, insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and consumers will have the right to appeal insurance-company decisions to a third party. And the Obama Administration has also sent talking points to House Democrats urging them to spend the next week in their districts highlighting the bill's popular new consumer protections for their constituents" (Crowley, 8/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.