HEALTH POLITICS: The World's Best Health Care ... Oh Never Mind
Well if the Republicans hadn't figured out that the American people are clamoring for health reform, their message guru Frank Luntz is back on the scene to remind them. The Politico's Mike Allen today has a piece on the confidential 26-page report to Capitol Hill Republicans coaching them on how to use language to stop "the Washington takeover of Health Care." The Politico article doesn't specify who asked Luntz to do this or who paid, but it's an interesting read—both about how conservatives perceive health reform and how large swathes of the public is demanding change. We especially liked the part about how health care reform is "inevitable."
"You simply MUST be vocally and passionately on the side of REFORM," Luntz advises in a confidential 26-page report obtained from Capitol Hill Republicans. "The status quo is no longer acceptable. If the dynamic becomes ‘President Obama is on the side of reform and Republicans are against it,' then the battle is lost and every word in this document is useless."
'We don't think the document is useless at all. It previews what we can expect to hear from a least some conservative Republicans (we know others are still engaged in bipartisan dialogue). Luntz counsels them to stop talking about tax credits and free markets and deregulation and instead to humanize the conversation. He also recommends using the same old scare tactics about "Big Government" and "Rationing" to slow down the push for comprehensive reform that will cover all Americans. At least he's not advising them to keep talking about how we've got the best health system in the world—even Luntz's own polling shows that only two percent of the public still buys that one.
Here's a sampling of his message on stopping "the Washington Takeover of Health Care." We also provided some reality checks.
Luntz: Republicans should remind Americans that "One-size-does-NOT-fit-all."
Reality Check: President Obama and congressional Democrats are promoting a reformed health care system with numerous choices of affordable, high quality health care plans, including the option of letting people keep the health care they have now, the hospital they have now, the doctor they have now.
Luntz: Republicans should ask Americans if they'd rather keep paying for their current health care, or if they really want to pay less but get less.
Reality Check: Right now people are paying more and more and more and more and they are getting less and less and less and less, and as our "Cost of Doing Nothing" research has shown, it's only going to get worse. As numerous polls by the Kaiser Family Foundation have shown, Americans are really worried about the cost of care and whether they will be able to afford it in the future.
Luntz: Make Americans worry about waiting "weeks for tests and months for treatments you need."
Reality Check: When was the last time Frank Luntz tried to schedule a doctor's appointment? Haven't any of his friends or relatives—even ones with good insurance—had to wait weeks or months for an appointment, a diagnostic test, even a biopsy? Maybe he should read today's San Francisco Chronicle story about women who had to wait up to 300 days for a mammogram, until a bunch of reform-minded people teamed up to cut the waits and improve access for the mostly poor women who use the public hospital. Imagine how much more efficient we could make health care if we had a system that stopped cost-shifting, covered everyone, valued wellness, and rewarded quality.
Luntz: Reform could lead to rationing and government denying treatment.
Reality Check: Wrong "R" word. Reformers don't want rationing. They want research so doctors know what treatments are actually best for patients, when it's worth spending money on a new treatment, and when we can spend less for good or better health. As Obama told the New York Times Sunday magazine recently, good scientific research will help doctors and other providers "say to patients, you know what, we've looked at some objective studies out here, people who know about this stuff, concluding that the blue pill, which costs half as much as the red pill, is just as effective, and you might want to go ahead and get the blue one. And if a provider is pushing the red one on you, then you should at least ask some important questions."
Luntz: Convince the public that we can bring down costs by reducing WASTE, FRAUD, and ABUSE.
Reality Check: We're all for ending waste fraud and abuse. That's why we want to overhaul the health care delivery system so we pay for high quality of care, not high quantity of care. Why we want a simpler system, with our doctors less buried in paperwork from insurers. That's why we want to stop spending hundreds of billions on health care that doesn't make us any healthier. And speaking of fraud, here's the latest story we've come across on Rick Scott, former CEO of Columbia/HCA and current poster-person for "Conservatives for Patient Rights" This one's in his one-time home town paper, and it's headlined "New voice in health debate left Nashville in disgrace.