Liberal Health Care Activists Advised to Avoid Saying That ObamaCare Reduces Costs and Deficit

Are liberals backing down from core arguments about cost and deficit reductions in the new health care law? A leaked Powerpoint presentation put together by an alliance of prominent liberals indicates that health care reform activists are moving away from messaging that focuses on health care costs and deficit reduction.

Politico’s Ben Smith has posted a copy of the presentation, which starts by noting the “challenging” environment for reformer advocates. What’s the challenge? “Straightforward ‘policy’ defenses fail to be moving voters’ opinions of the law,” the presentation explains, and many people “don’t believe that health reform will help the economy.” Not only are voters worried about the rising cost of health care, they “believe costs will continue to rise.” It’s a frank admission that the economic argument in favor of the law has basically failed amongst voters.

So what are activists to do? The presentation suggests that when making the case for ObamaCare, advocates must reassure seniors that Medicare benefits won’t be cut (which isn’t strictly true). And it suggests they focus on the recent decision to force insurers to offer “free preventive care” (never mind that these benefits aren’t really free). But whatever they do, the final slide of the presentation warns, activists should not “say the law will reduce costs and deficit”—which is probably a smart idea given how unlikely the administration's claims about the deficit have always been.

Here’s Smith on the groups behind the message:

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 Herndon Alliance, which presented the research, is a low-profile group which coordinated liberal messaging in favor of the public option in health care. Its "partners" include health care legislation's heavyweight supporters: The AARP, AFL-CIO, SEIU, Health Care for America Now, MoveOn, and La Raza, among many others.

Is the White House, which spent so much time and energy making the case for the fiscal responsibility of its health care law, going to push back at so many of its close allies for playing down its initial cost and deficit claims? Somehow I doubt it. Not when we’re already seeing evidence that the PPACA will push health insurance premiums higher starting as early as next year.

The best case that liberal health care advocates can make here is that they are simply backing off the cost and deficit claims because those arguments aren’t resonating with voters. No matter what, as Smith's piece notes, this signals a dramatic shift in messaging—one that basically concedes that, in the court of public opinion, critics have won the core economic argument about the law.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • dunkel||

    jeebus these morons are ratfuckers...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    At this point there is absolutely no one, not even Matlock, who has credibility with enough voters to change the opinion of Obamacare. It's just another of many levels on which PPACA is a lost cause.

    The DNC message-crafters are wasting everyone's time.

  • Jordan||

    ...the recent decision to force insurers to offer “free preventive care"

    Gee, why would people think this bill will increase insurance costs? It's a mystery.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    But, but it's free.

  • ||

    And it suggests they focus on the recent decision to force insurers to offer “free preventive care”
    The "free" care consists of flyers advising people not to fall off ladders and break their legs.
    The cost reductions consists of not paying for setting the broken leg of anyone who doubts the cost savings of health reform

  • ||

    This is why they had to pass the bill, so they could find out what was in it.

  • Mike||

    +1

  • TallDave||

    Does it still come with magincal ponies?

  • Inkblots||

    I think you meant margincal ponies. And yes, yes it does.

  • Magical Ponies||

    It's the end. We knew this time would come.

  • ||

    But whatever they do, the final slide of the presentation warns, activists should not “say the law will reduce costs and deficit”

    Why stop the lies now? Reality didn't seem to matter during the whole runup and after the passage; only The Message™ mattered.

  • ||

    What are a few lies compared to...wait, what did this gain anyone involved? Because losing your seat in November doesn't seem like a gain to me. I mean, when you think about what they went through to pass this, do you think they're still happy about the sacrifices they made to ram it through?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I think they are still happy. They have a little longer view, IMO, than most give them credit. They passed it when they could, will lose some seats this cycle (possibly the presidency and more seats next cycle too), but this law is now here to stay. In 4 to 8 years these same douches will be back in power AND have the massive PPACA to play with. Hell, the Rs play the same game. Newt was the champion of small gubmint, got a beat down, went underground for 10 years, and is now in the running for president.

    I usually try to be optimistic about the american people in general but as the magic 8 ball says "all signs point to NO"

    When does the ride stop?

  • Jeffersonian||

    They sacrificed for the long-term health of the Democratic Party. In a few years, government health care will become another thing to threaten the populace with should the GOP get voted in. See also: Medicare, Social Security.

  • ||

    I agree.
    But on the other hand, that which cannot continue...will not continue.
    Obviously gubermint has been unable or unwilling to rein in the costs of medicare. Now gubermint is vastly expanding the medical entitlement, despite years (er, decades) of evidence that it is unable to manage costs and extract any efficiency or efficacy benefits.
    At some points, it will become apparent to all in the "reality based' comminity that costs are going up while outcomes are coming down.

  • ||

    One bridge too far.

  • creech||

    Yep, but didn't the allies recover from Operation Market Garden to wax the enemy?

  • ||

    So when's that big retraction from Kruggers coming ...

  • mad libertarian guy||

    There won't be. He'll be wondering whet happened to sending out the message.

    Surely he still believes that it will cut costs.

  • dr kill||

    But whatever they do, the final slide of the presentation warns, activists should not “say the law will reduce costs and deficit”

    Instead, activists suggest 'the Rethuglicans shot your unicorn' as an alternative conclusion.

  • ||

    OH wow, OK never really thought about it that way. It does make sense.

    www.total-privacy.cz.tc

  • 4Chan||

    Why the hell aren't you in North Korea?

  • .....||

    I disagree with Team Blue's strategery (misspelling intentional). They've already committed to the Big Lie that creating a new federal agency and accompanying regulations somehow reduces costs and deficits. They might as well keep running with it.

  • Alterna-Bush||

    "strategery (misspelling intentional)"

    DON'T EXPLAIN THE JOKE!

  • Magical Ponies||

    Two late.

  • ||

    unless the strategery was two explain the strategery

  • Leigh||

    F'ing douchebag!

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_.....alth-Care/

    And here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future. (Applause.) I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. (Applause.) Now, part of the reason I faced a trillion-dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for -- from the Iraq war to tax breaks for the wealthy. (Applause.) I will not make that same mistake with health care.

  • .||

    " Now, part of the reason I faced a trillion-dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for..."

    Of course, part of the reason for that trillion-dollar deficit was the huge Wall Street bail-out that Obama and other Senators voted for, but I suppose we aren't supposed to bring that up.

  • Joseph||

    Ha! Nicely done.

  • ||

    Man, those guys in the gubermint think of everything...there is a provision!!!
    Why, that solves everything!!!
    Hmmmm...you know, we could end rape,murder, and animal cruelty if only we would put a provision in the law!!!
    Of course, I was reading that in New York some cops game the system by not recording crimes, to make it look like they are reducing crime...
    But nobody in Washington would every do some accounting shenanagans to make it like the cost have been contained. Just wouldn't happen...George Washington, cherry trees. Also, all representtive have 'honorable' in front of their names. Just like I have 'big dick' in front of mine, so everybody knows I have a big dick. Because if they just looked at my dick, they might not understand that it was big. And it is big...because the word 'big dick' is written down.

  • ||

    You owe me a keyboard.

  • ||

    I gotta wonder who hacked Ben Smith's e-mail and wrote this story. I didn't see this type of story in any of the JournoList strategy sessions.

  • Ron L||

    "...many people “don’t believe that health reform will help the economy.”

    And here I thought it was only the Brits who could pronounce such satire without collapsing in laughter.

  • Rich||

    "...many people “don’t believe that health reform will help the economy.”

    Probably those people who *do* know that the law passed.

  • Ron L||

    And among those who bought the passage (with our money), no one cared.
    Hey, I live in SF. Usually, you can tell when Pelosi's in town. But you can get fooled by a low tide or a breeze off the sewage treatment plant.

  • broc7||

    Hmm. The roadsign on page 5 has failure to the left and success to the right. Is the car in D? How do I vote if I have a manual transmission?

  • Mr Whipple||

    I refuse to support any health care legislation that doesn't bring back the Quaalude.

  • Some Guy||

    Why bother lying at this point? It's passed, it won't be repealed, and most of those who voted for it will be dead before it causes the country to collapse.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    most of those who voted for it will be dead before it causes the country to collapse.

    Did you know that you're an optimist? I mean, I just wonder if you knew that.

  • ||

    Why bother lying at this point?

    Because there is an election upcoming, and they're trying to limit their losses over this mess.

  • jester||

    meanwhile the GOP is worried about the imposition of Sharia Law once the country is bankrupted by not-so-secret Muslim because if the borders aren't sealed up we'll be over-run by Virgin-of-Guadalupe-worshipping campesinos whose anchor-babies will wrest back what Santa Anna lost and demand their cheques.

    Good God! We are doomed.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    You forgot to throw in "abortion" and "gay marriage".

  • ||

    also...mosque

  • robc||

    The law passed, why are they still trying to sell it?

  • People Power Hour||

    Where's Chad, or is he busy preparing to host a neighborhood "ObamaCare Facts" slideshow party for his friends?

  • ||

    Trolling by proxy ? jeez

  • ||

    All I heard from liberals on this board and others was how we had to pass Obamacare because it would "bend the cost curve". And passing it was the only way to solve the deficit and thus do anything about the economy. How many faux thoughtful assholes got out and rubbed their chins and explained to all of us plebs how it was a great first step and was better than what he have now and was going to keep the government out of bankruptcy. But it was also of course going to insure 47 million people and somehow not lead to reduced care even though it was saving us all this money.

    And now they have been told not to mention costs because it is so obviously a lie even they can't say it. Anyone who supported this piece of shit should be banned from public life and no longer allowed to express an opinion in the future. Lying ratfucking bastards.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    And in the meantime, I was (and other, more qualified individuals were) writing tens of thousands of words explaining exactly why that was utter bullshit...

  • Jason||

    Denying health care to people who don't vote the right way seems like a good way to "bend the cost curve".

  • ||

    But whatever they do, the final slide of the presentation warns, activists should not “say the law will reduce costs and deficit”

    Why on earth not?

    Haven't they heard the old saying, "Always leave 'em laughing?"

  • ||

    I say repeal the law. Let costs continue to climb.

    But we must also allow hospitols to turn away patients who cannot pay. I personally have no insurance. I get my care at the ER and then I don't pay the bill because I don't have the money. I let the local taxpayers and the other insured cover my care.

    You'll need to stop people like me.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    But we must also allow hospitols to turn away patients who cannot pay.

    It doesn't even have to be that drastic.

    The most sensible idea was to create more competition in the insurance market. Use the commerce clause for its intended purpose for once, and allow insurance policies to be bought across state lines, without the ridiculous and sometimes arbitrary requirements each state places on insurance policies. That would lower the number of uninsured and make insurance more affordable for everybody. People like yourself would be much less of a drag on the system, even if we did nothing else.

  • ||

    It doesn't even have to be that drastic.

    Yeah, it does. Mandatory ER care just moves the adverse insurance selection/no pre-existing condition problem out of the insurance companies and into the hospitals.

    Why buy insurance at any price when you can get care (in an ER) that you don't have to pay for?

    Millions of people do this today. Its killing hospitals, and packing highly expensive and inefficient care into the system.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Reject people at the ER? That's not going to happen, and you know it.

    Reduce the number of uninsured by creating competition first, and THEN we can figure out what to do with the rest. Anything else is going to lead to a government solution that is even less efficient that the current one.

  • ||

    The presentation suggests that when making the case for ObamaCare, advocates must reassure seniors that Medicare benefits won’t be cut (which isn’t strictly true). And it suggests they focus on the recent decision to force insurers to offer “free preventive care” (never mind they these benefits aren’t really free). lie.

  • ChrisO||

    "Ok, this Shit Sandwich isn't actually good for you, but it sure is dee-licious!"

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    Why doesn't the media do a poll of Americans and see how many of them beleive this statement: "a giant clusterfuck of a bill jammed thru by Nancy Pelosi, that probably hasn't been read in its entirety by any one person, is actually going to decrease the budget deficit. HA! now that is a really knee slapper right there. Why don't we get a full scale media assault on how dumb the american people must be to believe that?

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    deficit."

    forgot the close-quote.

    spelling I could give a crap about, but out-of-balance punctuation drives me crazy.

  • ||

    Reject people at the ER? That's not going to happen, and you know it.

    I do. That's why I am 100% confident that no amount of "insurance market reform" is going to make a damn bit of difference.

    Because the very people who impose the most costs on the system because they don't have insurance will never get it as long as they know where to go to get "free" care.

  • lita||

    Get Affordable healthcare for the whole family for only $49.95/month and take charge of your own healthcare. Be a member of Medical Tourism connection

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement