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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Health Care “Swing Vote”

This Staff post was first published on June 26, 2009.
Democracy Corps is out with a new analysis of public opinion on health care reform, based on extensive polling and focus group work. Much of it reflects the advice that TDS Co-Editor Stan Greenberg has been offering on how to succeed where President Clinton failed in securing universal health coverage.
But the new DCorps memo provides an interesting focus on the “swing vote” for health care reform:

Proponents and opponents of reform will be battling for the 35 percent of the electorate
who are not satisfied with the health insurance system but satisfied with their personal insurance.
Conservatives and some in the media think these voters are not serious about change, but that
misreads them, as we realize from our focus groups last week. They are “satisfied” with their
choice of doctors, that their employer is picking up most of the cost and that they may have
better insurance than others. But, they are not happy about having traded off wages or gotten
locked into a job because of health care or about the fate of a child with a chronic ailment who
may not be able to get insurance in the future. So, they are nervous about change, but they want
it.

The DCorps team goes on to identify five key strategies for appealing to these key voters:
1. Voters need to hear clearly what changes health care reform will bring.
2. Build a narrative around taking power away from the insurance companies and giving it
to people.
3. The president and reform advocates have to explain concretely the changes that will mean
lower costs.
4. Show all voters and seniors that there are benefits for them, including prescription drugs.
5. All of these points should be made with the dominant framework that continuing the status
quo is unacceptable and unsustainable.
This analysis leads to a overarching narrative that DCorps recommends:

Continuing the status quo in health care is not acceptable and not sustainable. Keeping the status quo means the insurance companies are still in charge, jacking up rates and denying coverage. It means more people losing insurance or enslaved to their job, prices skyrocketing for families and businesses and our companies less
competitive. We need change so that people no longer lose coverage or get dropped for a pre-existing condition, and see lower costs.

“Safe change” is always a tricky message to convey, even when people are open to or eager for change. But if DCorps is right, then it will be the key to navigating health care reform through many obstacles.

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