washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

‘Swift Boat’ Ads Launched to Stop Health Reform

WaPo‘s Dan Eggen has an article today about the launching of the GOP’s ad campaign to stop health care reform. Eggen reports that the ads

feature horror stories from Canada and the United Kingdom: Patients who allegedly suffered long waits for surgeries, couldn’t get the drugs they needed, or had to come to the United States for treatment.

As if there are no long waits in private sector health care and Americans don’t spend many millions on cheaper drugs from Canada.
The ad campaign is being coordinated by CRC Public Relations, the firm most famous for its “Swift Boat’ attack campaign to discredit 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry. Rick Scott, a leader and spokesmen for the campaign and former partner with W in the Texas Rangers, is also a former hospital chief executive who Eggen reports was ousted from the helm of the Columbia/HCA health-care company during a fraud investigation in the 1990s. “The firm eventually pleaded guilty to charges that it overbilled state and federal health plans, paying a record $1.7 billion in fines,” explains Eggen.
The good news is that the ads are already being challenged, as Eggen reports:

In an ad broadcast in the Washington area and in Scott’s home town of Naples, Fla., last week, a group called Health Care for America Now says of Scott: “He and his insurance-company friends make millions from the broken system we have now.”
The group’s national campaign manager, Richard Kirsch, said: “Those attacking reform are really looking to protect their own profits, and he’s a perfect messenger for that. His history of making a fortune by destroying quality in the health-care system and ripping off the government is a great example of what’s really going on.”

The Scott/CRC ads are in line with the strategy suggested by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, whose paper on stopping President Obama’s health care refom initiative I discussed at TDS last week.
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) says, via HuffPo, that the Luntz strategy is “intended to prolong the broken system we have today” and he describes it thusly:

So expect a massive misinformation campaign coming to a health care debate near you. Opponents using Dr. Luntz’s doublespeak will argue for a “balanced, common sense approach” to health care but what they really want is to keep the system the way it is. They’ll say that a public plan will not be “patient centered,” but their real goal is to block accessible health care for every American. They’ll say reform will deny Americans “choice” even when every American will be allowed to keep their health insurance and their doctor. They’ll claim that the “quality of care will go down,” while callously ignoring the fact that millions of Americans have no health care at all and millions more are denied the medications and procedures they need.

Also at HuffPo, Chris Weigant offers some good strategy pointers in his post “Countering the Luntz Playbook on Health Care,” including:

…We’ve got an easier job than Republicans in convincing the people, because they already agree with the most basic Democratic premises on health care — every family has a health insurance horror story. Meaning “the system is broken” is not something we have to convince people of. The Republicans, meanwhile, have only fear. Which brings us to our first talking point.

And when a Republican Senator/member of congress starts railing against government involvement in health care as a form of socialism, Weigant has a response:

“Excuse me, Senator, but I can’t help but pointing out that the health care you receive from the American taxpayers could be called ‘socialized medicine’ as well. And yet, I notice that you accept this health care — which is paid for straight out of the American taxpayer’s wallet. Are you over 65? Have you refused all Medicare benefits, since you are so adamant about the evils of ‘socialized medicine’? If you are trying to limit American citizens from getting the health care you yourself enjoy, which is incidentally paid for by those very same taxpayers, why should anyone listen to what you have to say? You are saying ‘I’ve got mine’ and at the same time ‘nobody else should get to choose what I’ve got’ even though they’re paying for yours. I will start to listen to you on the evils and dangers of government health care when you voluntarily give up your own government health care and go out and buy insurance on the open market. By doing so, you might begin to understand the crisis as the average Americans see it… but until you do, I have to say you’re being somewhat of a hypocrite, Senator.”

George Lakoff, along with colleagues Glenn W. Smith and Eric Haas, have a list of ten principles of health care reform messaging, also at HuffPo. Among the nuggets mined by Lakoff, Smith and Haas:

Why do HMO’s have a high administrative cost – 15 to 20 percent or more? They spend money to justify denying you the care you need and all too often delaying care so much that you are harmed by the delay…
The American Plan is there to provide you care, not deny or delay it. Its administrative costs would be low, about 3 percent….HMO’s are big spenders, not on your health, but on administrative costs, commercials to tout their plans, and profits to investors. As much as 20 to 30% of what you pay does not go to your care. In The American Plan, 97% of what you pay goes for your care. It’s a better deal for you and for our country.

The authors also emphasize the importance of stating that “Health care is a moral issue” and underscoring the “central principle of empathy.” While it is important to affirm the moral case for comprehensive health care reform, I would also emphasize that it is a compelling national security priority, when we have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world, nearly 50 million citizens have zero health insurance, when tens of millions of Americans are in immediate danger of economic ruin in the event of a catastrophic illness and many more millions simply don’t know how much their insurance will cover —- until they get the bill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.