An article describing Democrats’ “retreat” from the new health law attracted attention from health policy bloggers. Politico’s Ben Smith reported that Democratic supporters of the health legislation are moving away from arguments that it will reduce health costs and the deficit. A conference call on Thursday featured a power point presentation from the Herndon Alliance, a pro-reform group. One of the bullets on the presentation counseled Dems, “Don’t say the law reduces health costs and [the] deficit.”
Conservative bloggers pounced on the news.
Hot Air’s Allah Pundit thinks this spells bad news for Dems in the mid-term elections: “the fact that they’re now so far in retreat that they’re willing to make rhetorical concessions even on their idiotic core plank about bending the cost curve shows just how worried they are that the GOP (a) will be making big, big gains in November and (b) might just have the public support needed to get a serious pro-repeal movement going among the electorate. This is pure defense.”
Cato’s Michael Cannon says the presentation came just as a new poll showed that the individual mandate to purchase insurance has less than majority support: “Americans still support ObamaCare’s price controls — which force insurance companies to over-charge the healthy and under-charge the sick — by 58-42 percent. But as President Obama has himself acknowledged, those price controls don’t work without the individual mandate. Unless a majority also supports the mandate, you don’t have majority support for either.”
Reason’s Peter Suderman writes, “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.”
Responding to a statement in the power point that Democratic candidates should focus their message on “improving” the legislation, The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson says, “The truth is that Obamacare cannot be improved. It can only be repealed. It was passed as “comprehensive legislation,” and it must be repealed comprehensively.”
Meanwhile, Time’s Kate Pickert thinks “[n]one of the material in either Herndon document is earth-shattering. It’s no secret that a lot of voters don’t know what’s in the law or how it will affect them. Everyone knows that seniors are worried about Medicare cuts. That a presentation like this exists is also not noteworthy. (Check out this anti-reform messaging memo from last year.) What’s significant here is that the Democrats’ messaging strategy on health care so far has been basically a waste of time and there’s a sizable effort underway among advocacy groups to salvage that effort, change strategies and possibly win over some more voters between now and the November mid-terms.”
Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky agrees with Pickert that the message change isn’t major, saying, “Smith’s claims of a “dramatic” or secret change in messaging is anachronistic and misleading. They ignore the shifts in message that occurred throughout the reform period and suggest, incorrectly, that Democrats are abandoning previous claims to save a sinking ship, a notion that’s not supported by recent polling data. … The Politico article incorrectly assumes that reform is hanging on for dear life and that Democrats and their allies are making one last ditch effort — a sudden message switch –to resuscitate it. The reality is that Democrats are having trouble convincing certain sectors of the public on the merits of the law and are relying on past messaging efforts to close the sale.”
And Ben Smith, author of the original article, responds, saying, “Igor Volsky at the Center for American Progress, who has followed the health care conversation as closely as anyone, notes that the cost argument has been fading for a while. (He thinks I’ve exaggerated the drama of the shift in this respect, but I think the open abandonment of the cost argument — mentioning it is listed as a “don’t” — is a fairly stunning admission of defeat, not just a rearrangement of talking points. I’m not sure we disagree on the facts.)”
Other commentators continue to mull over changes to health insurance under the overhaul.
Insure Blog’s Bob Vineyard uses a site that shows providers participating in the new high-risk insurance plans. Vineyard, who lives near Atlanta, Ga., finds: “A quick search on their site turned up 13 general practice doctors who are willing to treat PCIP patients. Interesting that there are 65 psychiatrists willing to treat PCIP patients but only 13 GP’s. If my wife needed an obstetrician she can pick from Dr. Schaefer or Dr. Schaefer (he has 2 offices). Cardiologists? There are 100. Oncologists? You can pick from 26. How about hospitals? Only 4 within 10 miles of my home who are willing to treat PCIP patients and none of them have a labor and delivery room.”
Kavita Patel of the New Health Dialogue makes a flow chart to help readers figure out if their children are eligible to be on their health insurance plan.
And Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters hosts an implementation-themed Health Wonk Review.