Tennesseee Health Care Campaign (THCC)

Working for guaranteed affordable choices

Archive for June, 2009

Obama: Read Your Own Lips

Posted by Susan McKay on June 30, 2009

Well, folks, the proverbial rubber is about to meet the road….

Staunch Do Nothings aside, from the Belt Way to the Heartland, from Wall St. to Main St., from doctors to patients–most Americans have long concluded that our health care system is ailing and needs holistic healing. While there remains disagreement about some of the cure, this is not what will determine if the patient improves or not. No. Like it or not, as with most things in our society, it all comes down to money. The cost of proposed reform ranges from just under $1 trillion to $1.6 trillion over ten years. So, how will we pay for it?

There are several good resources that offer ideas on how to pay for reform and I can offer no better ideas.  What I can offer is  a cautionary tale about voters and political promises, particularly where taxes are concerned:

President Obama surely remembers George H. Bush’s “read my lips” pledge about no new taxes.  He surely remembers that during the presidential campaign he solemnly promised that families earning $250,000 or less per year would not see their taxes–any type of federal taxes–go up in any way–nada, zip, nowayo.

Moreover, he made this pledge at the same time  he was running ads accusing Sen. McCain of supporting taxing health care benefits.

Fast forward eight months….

Now, members of the president’s own party are pitching the idea of capping deductions on health care benefits–which basically means allowing more of the benefit to be taxed thus raising tax revenue from it. Such plans would impact families making less than $250,000. BTW: Tom Dashcle is one proponent. C’mon!  Do the Democrats really want a tax evader leading this charge?

President Obama says the tax-cap option remains on the table, despite his personal objection.  Personal objection? Sorry, sir, no. When it comes to politicians making pledges of no new taxes to voters and then trying to back pedal once elected–regardless of the merits or necessity–it never turns out well. Voters may forgive some pledges, such as saying “I’m a uniter not a divider” and then dividing both the nation and world; or fabricating evidence to go to war. But they never take kindly to broken tax promises.

It matters not that President Obama is simply saying: all options are on the table. Or that he is not saying he supports the tax option proposal.  Taxes are never about  logic or facts. Taxes are about emotions and perceptions. Otherwise, Americans would not believe the myth that Republicans are, and have been, better fiscal stewards than Democrats. Just look at the factual increase in the national debt during the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II years. No matter, the belief remains. So, Mr. President, don’t be surprised at the mounting blacklash to perceived back pedaling on your “no new taxes” pledge.

Taxes remain the radical Rights’ unifying battle cry. Tax Tea Parties are in vogue around the country, with Nashville hosting one just this week.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I understand that this group is made up of a few Do Nothings, but Do Nothings with big connections and deep pockets that afford the ability to create the perception of majority will.  President Obama should stick to his tax pledge and not add heavy-duty fuel to a fire that now wanes after two-plus decades of a Right-wing scorched earth agenda.

The other side to this coin is the mantra we reformers, including Mr. President, have been chanting:  “If you like what you have you can keep it.”  The implication being that people who are content with their private plans need not fear change, especially change that would leave them with less, or less well off, than they are now. The implication goes further when tied to the idea of choices. Americans want choices in care. They want the ability to choose to keep what they have or choose to change.  Capping the amount of benefits not subject to tax will indeed force some to give up what they have and they will not have a choice in the matter.

This may sound trite.  But the emotional impact of fear–the fear of losing what one has (even if it may not be good) is so powerful that it was a large reason health reform failed in 2003.  All the messaging gurus know this, including Obama’s people.

Let Congressional Dems and others talk about taxes.  Let them pass reform bills with such ideas, if they can. Please, Mr. President, steer clear of  tax trap.  


How To Pay for Reform?

Why the cost of doing nothing is too costly

CBPP – Several articles

Urban Institute


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Call Congress July 7 & 8th!

Posted by Susan McKay on June 30, 2009

American health reform is sizzling like the July sun! Call-in actions to Congress on July 7th and 8th. Message is simple: “Time for playing politics is over! We want health coverage that is guaranteed and affordable for everyone!

Call your members of Congress toll free: 1-866-210-3678.

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The Tennessean’s “featured” natl reform story a disappointment

Posted by Susan McKay on June 15, 2009

Is it any wonder newspapers are going down? At the dawning of the most significant national health care legislation in more than 40 years, you would think that when  Tennessee’s leading daily decides to feature the topic in its Sunday edition it would delve into details and provide in-depth commentary from policy experts who would help its readers to better understand the debate.

But in typical fashion of today’s “journalism,” The Tennessean looks to a Do Nothing like Rep. Marcia Blackburn, who has no health care policy expertise and who is among a small minority of regressive extremists, whose numbers are shrinking fast and whose sole purpose is to impede progress of any kind and harp the tired old “wa-wa-wa-wa, wa-wa-wa.”

The Tennessean had a chance to engage its readers about the historic public policy debate, but instead took its cue from the Faux News model and set up the typical dichotomy of “Progressive -v- Regressive,” using a single component, public health insurance plan, to weigh in.  And it carried this Faux coverage to its predicable end by excluding comment from “progressive” Tennesseans to counterbalance Corker and Blackburn. Really!?!


To his credit, reporter Gethan Ward did interview Sen. Bob Corker, a conservative proponent of reform.  However, the reader wouldn’t know by the story that Corker is on record as saying that we have a moral obligation to cover everybody and that we must pass national reform this year in order to get costs under control.  I think readers would have liked to know this.  Blackburn is actually out of step with her own party–most Republicans along with Democrats believe the cost of doing nothing is more harmful than the up front costs to cure our broken health care system–therefore unacceptable.

Other pieces of interest in The Tennessean:

Faces of Health Care Crisis:


Health-care reform demands more of us:


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Keep Up! Kaiser Health Gateway

Posted by Susan McKay on June 12, 2009

No creativity without chaos!  Oodles of buzz about every aspect of national reform. Keep up with regular visits  to Kaiser gateway.


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Today’s Messaging Tip: How to Trump Luntz

Posted by Susan McKay on June 11, 2009

Much ballyhoo has been made of Frank Luntz and his infamous 10 pointers in “The Language of Healthcare 2009.”  

Don’t get me wrong, we must take this seriously because, like it or not, the guy has been a brilliant strategist for the Do Nothings for quite some time.  Serious, but not even close to fatal!  What Luntz et al have yet to realize is that this is not 1993 or 2003.  The pen (computer) is truly mightier than the sword, and enough of us now have messaging tools to trump Luntz’ old rusty pen.

Frames Luntz evokes:  Anti-CHOICE/Loss of FREEDOM/Big Bad Govt.   He wants Americans to think that health care reform means Scary RATIONING (anti choice) and Big Brother (anti govt.) and  taking away freedom of choice — ya know, the ol” socialist/commie nonsense. Not a problem to counter by simply using a technique called “bridging”  and then evoking key frames of: CHOICE, FREEDOM, COMMON GOOD and SHARED RESPONSIBILITY.

Bridging means you use a simple phrase to ignore what your opponent has just said and “bridge”/bring the conversation back to your point.  My favorite bridge is:  The reality is: …. The other good one is:  The point is: ….   You’ll get what I mean right away, check out how easy it is to disintegrate  tired ol’ scare tactics 

How to Respond to Luntz’ 10 pointers in “The Language of Healthcare 2009″:

(Luntz’s numbered point followed by my how-to respond in red)

(1) Humanize your approach. Abandon and exile ALL references to the “healthcare system.” From now on, healthcare is about people. Before you speak, think of the three components of tone that matter most: Individualize. Personalize. Humanize.

No disagreement here, all sides plan to do this.

(2) Acknowledge the “crisis” or suffer the consequences. If you say there is no healthcare crisis, you give your listener permission to ignore everything else you say. It is a credibility killer for most Americans. A better approach is to define the crisis in your terms. “If you’re one of the millions who can’t afford healthcare, it is a crisis.” 

“The reality is: it’s a crisis for all Americans—for the 47 million who have no coverage and for most of the rest of us that are either one illness or one pink slip from crisis.”

Better yet,  If some bureaucrat puts himself between you and your doctor, denying you exactly what you need, that’s a crisis. 

The reality is:  Americans are suffering a health care crisis because the health insurance industry has been allowed to put itself between patients and their doctors. That’s why we need national reform now—so Americans have coverage that they—and their doctors—can count on.

And the best: “If you have to wait weeks for tests and months for treatment, that’s a healthcare crisis.”

The point is, too many millions are being told to wait forever. Or wait until you die, because if you can’t afford the best care in the world, you won’t get it.

(3) “Time” is the government healthcare killer. As Mick Jagger once sang, “Time is on Your Side.” Nothing else turns people against the government takeover of healthcare than the realistic expectation that it will result in delayed and potentially even denied treatment, procedures and/or medications. “Waiting to buy a car or even a house won’t kill you. But waiting for the healthcare you need – could. Delayed care is denied care.”

The point is: 18,000 Americans die each year because of delayed and denied care. Health insurance companies come between patients and their doctors by decided what care is covered or not. 47 million Americans face delay or no care simply because they don’t have health insurance and cannot afford to pay for it. And tens of millions of families go in to medical debt and financial ruin paying for life-saving care.

(4) The arguments against the Democrats’ healthcare plan must center around “politicians,” “bureaucrats,” and “Washington” … We speak of:  “health insurance/pharma executives” “bean counters” and “Wall Street”

 not the free market, tax incentives, or competition. Stop talking economic theory and start personalizing the impact of a government takeover of healthcare. They don’t want to hear that you’re opposed to government healthcare because it’s too expensive (any help from the government to lower costs will be embraced) or because it’s anti-competitive (they don’t know about or care about current limits to competition). But they are deathly afraid that a government takeover will lower their quality of care – so they are extremely receptive to the anti-Washington approach. It’s not an economic issue. It’s a bureaucratic issue. 

This may be their weakest tactic.  We stick with economic issue. In these times, SECURITY –as in economic security– trumps bureaucratic – in times of need, Americans actually look to government  for security.

(5) The healthcare denial horror stories from Canada & Co. do resonate, but you have to humanize them. You’ll notice we recommend the phrase “government takeover” rather than “government run” or “government controlled” It’s because too many politician say “we don’t want a government run healthcare system like Canada or Great Britain” without explaining those consequences. There is a better approach. “In countries with government run healthcare, politicians make YOUR healthcare decisions. THEY decide if you’ll get the procedure you need, or if you are disqualified because the treatment is too expensive or because you are too old. We can’t have that in America.”

The reality is: Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and every other capitalist democracy are covering everybody with public-private partnerships. That’s what we’re talking about. We will have an American solution that is about common sense and choices.

(6) Healthcare quality = “getting the treatment you need, when you need it.” That is how Americans define quality, and so should you. Once again, focus on the importance of timeliness, but then add to it the specter of “denial.” Nothing will anger Americans more than the chance that they will be denied the healthcare they need for whatever reason. This is also important because it is an attribute of a government healthcare system that the Democrats CANNOT offer. So say it. “The plan put forward by the Democrats will deny people treatments they need and make them wait to get the treatments they are allowed to receive.”

The reality is, too many millions are being told to wait forever. Or wait until you die, because if you can’t afford the best care in the world, you won’t get. We must have health reform that covers everyone and provides Americans with choices.

(7) “One-size-does-NOT-fit-all.” The idea that a “committee of Washington bureaucrats” will establish the standard of care for all Americans and decide who gets what treatment based on how much it costs is anathema to Americans. Your approach? Call for the “protection of the personalized doctor-patient relationship.” It allows you to fight to protect and improve something good rather than only fighting to prevent something bad.

The proposed national reform is about common sense solutions Americans understand. If you like your current health insurance and doctor, nothing changes. If you don’t or are among the 47 million uninsured, you will get to choose from the same coverage plans that Congress has. Americans will get the same benefits as Congress, no more, no less. It’s only fair.

(8) WASTE, FRAUD, and ABUSE are your best targets for how to bring down costs. Make no mistake: the high cost of healthcare is still public enemy number one on this issue – and why so many Americans (including Republicans and conservatives) think the Democrats can handle healthcare better than the GOP. You can’t blame it on the lack of a private market; in case you missed it, capitalism isn’t exactly in vogue these days. But you can and should blame it on the waste, fraud, and abuse that is rampant in anything and everything the government controls.

The reality is that Medicare administrative costs run about 3 percent compared to the health insurance industry’s 25 to 40 percent range. Public plan choice will fuel competition to benefit all Americans. It will compete with private plans and provide a strong mechanism to keep costs low and value high.

(9) Americans will expect the government to look out for those who truly can’t afford healthcare. Here is the perfect sentence for addressing cost and the limited role for government that wins you allies rather than enemies: “A balanced, common sense approach that provides assistance to those who truly need it and keeps healthcare patient-centered rather than government-centered for everyone.”

The reality is that national health care reform is about a balanced, common-sense approach that is patient-centered and guarantees quality coverage to everyone through a choice of private and public plans.

(10) It’s not enough to just say what you’re against. You have to tell them what you’re for. It’s okay (and even necessary) for your campaign to center around why this healthcare plan is bad for America. But if you offer no vision for what’s better for America, you’ll be relegated to insignificance at best and labeled obstructionist at worst. What Americans are looking for in healthcare that your “solution” will provide is, in a word, more: “more access to more treatments and more doctors…with less interference from insurance companies and Washington politicians and special interests.”

The proposed national reform is about common-sense solutions Americans understand. If you like your current health insurance and doctor, nothing changes. If you don’t or are among the 47 million uninsured, you will get to choose from the same coverage plans that Congress has. Americans will get the same benefits as Congress, no more, no less. It’s only fair.

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Keep up with the latest from D.C.

Posted by Beth Uselton on June 9, 2009

There is so much buzz about the national reform proposals circulating in Washington right now it’s tough to keep up.  What’s a Policy Junkie to do?   I highly recommend the Common Wealth Fund’s “Washington Health Policy -Week in Review.”  It gives the highlights of the biggest stories, with links to the full scoop, delivered to my inbox each week.  An excellent resource for any serious health care activist to stay in the loop!  Here’s the link to sign up: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/subscriptions.aspx

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Stay in-the-know

Posted by Susan McKay on June 9, 2009

Community Catalyst’s Health Reform Insider is a good way to keep up with the national health care reform that is churning like the north Atlantic in January… http://www.communitycatalyst.org/projects/national_reform

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National Health Care Organizing Kickoff

Posted by Susan McKay on June 8, 2009

Saturday, June 7th marked the official national health care reform organizing kickoff. Hear what President Obama had to day in a pre-recorded message:

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Today’s Messaging Tip: How to respond to fear of rationing

Posted by Susan McKay on June 2, 2009

The Do Nothings are betting that they will be able to scare Americans into joining them and do nothing rather than support national health care reform that will not be perfect, but will be a step toward the better.

Their biggest argument is an old, tired one:  Fear of Big Government.  This frame is evoked by using such words as rationing, limiting choices, and socialized medicine.  So, how to respond when you hear someone say:

Beware of the proposed national health care reform because it will come between you and your doctor!

Here are two winning responses you can use:


The reality is: care is already being rationed  under our broken system!  Health insurance companies are coming between patients and doctors by deciding what care is needed or not.  What’s more, with 47 million uninsured and nearly as many under-insured, people don’t have a doctor, or, if they do, don’t opt for the care they need when they need it because they can’t afford it.   Americans need peace of mind: Americans once believed we had a health care system we could count on—but no longer. The stories are all too familiar. Your neighbor discovers a lump in her breast but can’t afford treatment. Your son’s friend doesn’t qualify for health coverage because he has been diagnosed with diabetes. Your auto mechanic has closed his garage because he can’t afford the skyrocketing health care costs. Reforming the health care system means eliminating our fears and providing peace of mind for hard working Americans and their families. The national reform I’m talking about means health care you can count on when you need it.


If You Like It—You Can Keep It: Health care reform means better choices and options for all. You have the choice to keep your doctor, your hospital & even your health insurance plan if you like it. If you don’t like the plan you haven now, or are uninsured, there will choices similar to what Congress has and  including a public health insurance plan, which will bring down costs, make coverage affordable, force private health insurance companies to compete and guarantee that quality, affordable coverage will always be there for us when we need it.

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Sen. Ted Kennedy still champion for progressive reform

Posted by Susan McKay on June 1, 2009

Despite poor health, Sen. Edward Kennedy is still finding the strength to be the champion of the common man and woman. He is pushing back on colleague Sen. Max Baucus, who seems all to willing to cave to conservative demand that their be no public plan choice.  http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN3042787920090531

Posted in Major Players, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »