– Clipping Loc. 20-55 | Added on Tuesday, August 04, 2009, 11:14 PM
Recess strategies center on health Carrie Budoff Brown | 800 words They call this a recess? The five-week House break — the Senate is meeting another week — could go a long way in determining the direction of health care reform when lawmakers return next month. Aware of the stakes, House Democratic and Republican leaders have armed their members with enough talking points and tips to keep them from taking much of a vacation. Here’s the CliffsNotes version of what you need to know about the summer strategy on health care, according to House Democratic and Republican memos: Strangely absent. Many Democrats consider the government-run insurance plan their top priority, but there’s not one mention of it in the House Democratic strategy memo. It’s a noteworthy omission, given that Democratic leaders have said repeatedly and unequivocally that the House bill will include a public plan. Members are instead encouraged to talk about insurance market reforms, which are far less controversial than the public plan. They are following a slight shift in messaging that started last month with the White House calling the bill ‘health insurance reform” rather than ‘health care reform.” So what will you hear? ‘No discrimination for pre-existing conditions,” according to the House Democratic memo. ‘No dropping your coverage because you get sick. No more job or life decisions made based on loss of coverage. No need to change doctors or plans. No co-pays for preventive care. No excessive out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays. No yearly or lifetime cost caps on what insurance companies cover.” Weapon of choice. Despite a few recent town halls gone bad, the traditional recess sit-down with constituents is still a preferred method of spreading the message. But both Democrats and Republicans suggest a slightly more controlled option: the telephone town hall, which can make it much harder for critics of either side to hijack the event — and media headlines. An unruly event Saturday with Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) suggests it may be a long recess month. After saying he would support the Democratic health care plan even if his constituents opposed it, the congressman faced chants of ‘Just say no.” The shouting protesters followed him to the parking lot with signs and appeared to cheer when his car pulled away, according to a video posted on YouTube. Message of choice. Voters could be in for a confusing month. Republicans plan to argue that the Democrats want a government takeover of health care. Get used to hearing Republicans draw comparisons between the health care effort and the bailout of the auto and financial industries.’Democrats are leaving Washington on the defensive, and as a Republican challenger candidate, you must do everything you can to own the issues and frame the debate,” the Republican memo states. ‘It is up to you to reaffirm what the voters already know, which is that government is NOT the answer to an ailing economy.” Democrats have built a messaging strategy aimed at explicitly refuting the government takeover argument. The Democratic boogeyman is the not the government but, rather, insurers, which disrupt the doctor-patient relationship. By all means necessary. Democratic House leaders seem intent on leaving no media untouched. If you go on Facebook, they want you to visit their health care reform page. Ditto for Twitter. They also want members to create their own health care Web pages and are sending a template to member offices in case they didn’t get the hint the first time. And lawmakers should record YouTube videos, reach out to Hispanic media, hold online video chats with reporters and create flash quizzes on health reform for their websites, the leaders urge in their strategy memo. Best gimmick. You know that clock in Times Square that displays an ever-spiraling uptick in the federal debt? The ‘hidden tax” clock is next. Look for one on a member website near you, tallying the money insured families pay to subsidize the care of the uninsured. The strategy is to convince people who worry about paying more money to cover the uninsured under a reform bill that they are already footing the bill. The idea of a hidden health tax was introduced in a May report from the liberal consumer group Families USA. Its bottom line: In 2008, families paid a ‘hidden health tax” of $1,017, and individuals paid $368. Shameless coordination. Democrats will roll out all their assets. The House Democratic memo details coordination not only with the White House and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius but also with advocacy groups, including Health Care for America Now, AARP and the Service Employees International Union. Spoiler alert. Republican House leaders are urging members to submit op-eds to local newspapers for Aug. 17 to mark ‘the six-month anniversary of the signing of the failed ‘stimulus’ bill'” — which will no doubt be tied back to the health care debate.