Repeal And Replace — The Misinformation Campaign Starts Now

Only one week into the new Congress and already we are seeing a weakening in the Republicans drive to repeal and replace(eventually) Obamacare.

5 Republican senators want to delay the repeal by at least a month. And the House Freedom Caucus wants to delay repeal until they know what sort of impact it’s replacement will have on the 2017 budget.

So much for repealing Obamacare on day one.

We can talk all we want about the difficulty in repealing such unwieldy law. We can talk about how each aspect of the law is intertwined and dependant on other parts of the law.

The bottom line is this: healthcare is one of the most complex issues in world. As technology keeps finding ways to make us live even longer there is no way healthcare will get cheaper. Or easier to understand how it all fits together.

So the most politically expedient thing to do is to create the belief that it is the other party that is to blame for whatever people don’t like about their health care.

On this front Republicans have succeeded. In Gallup’s most recent poll on the ACA they found that 51% “generally disapprove” of the law. But polling also shows that 85% of Americans like that it allows young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance. And 69% like that it prevents insurers from denying coverage to people because of their medical history.

The most unpopular parts of the law are the things that help pay for all those popular features: the individual mandate and the employer’s mandate. Which have consistently had disapproval ratings in the 70’s.

Regardless of what you think about the ACA one thing has not changed: we still have a health care system for working age people based on for-profit health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. And those companies still need to make that profit. And they spend heavily on lobbying efforts to grow those profits.

Whatever the specifics of the new healthcare law, you can rest assured those changes will meet with the approval of these industries.

Because of the cost and complexity (and because of the name Obamacare) healthcare has been a great issue for republicans to run on. In the 2016 campaign “Repeal and Replace Obamacare on Day 1” was promised by every republican running for office. The problem with running on the issue, and blaming the Democrats for every real or imagined problem, is that voters now expect them to improve our health care system.

The Republican’s Mission Impossible

So they challenge they face is this: keep all the popular aspects of the ACA while getting rid of all the unpopular things that pay for them, like taxes on the wealthy and the mandates.

All the revenue created by the unpopular things provides the money to pay to the insurance companies in exchange for all those new popular features that are included in their policies.

Or did Republican voters think that insurers now cover pre-existing conditions out of the goodness of their hearts? If they are going to continue to provide such features someone has to pay for it.

Right now the name we associate with our healthcare system — Obamacare — is tied to a Democrat. Every dissatisfied customer, every price increase in coverage, every death that may have been preventable can always be blamed on Obamacare.

The new favorite talking point on the democratic side is, “you break it you bought it.”

And they are right. And Republicans know it. If they make drastic changes to Obamacare the new law will have a new name. And it will be tied to Republicans.

The delay that is about to come won’t be spent trying to devise a new, better, cheaper health care plan. The Republicans have had 7 years to come up with that. If they had a specific plan they would have run on in the last 2 presidential elections.

The healthcare industry, think tanks, political parties and academics have been wrestling with this issue for decades. But Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are going to fix it this year?

Please.

The next two years (or however long it takes to pass a new law) are going to be about developing the marketing plan that will wrap around the new law.

The law itself will just be a repackaged version of Obamacare.

The work on the part of republicans will be focused on how to get credit for the popular parts of the law and shift the blame for the unpopular or ineffective parts.

The health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are great at creating talking points, slogans and catchphrases.Delaying the repeal will give them time to test out new jargon and catchy advertising slogans.

As well as names to call their critics.

The word “Obamacare” itself was created as a pejorative term. A way to tie every complaint, real or imagined, to President Obama.

Remember some of these old slogans circa 2009–2010:

“If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it’s free.”

“Ramming it down our throats”

“Socialized healthcare is the first thing Hitler did when he came to power.”

Remember the concerted effort to disrupt town hall meetings? Well, get ready. Fear mongering and sloganeering will again dominate the debate around any new replacement. Except this time they will be targeted at the Democrats who point out any flaws in the Republican plan

The popular parts of Obamacare will stay. The responsible parts of Obamacare that pay for the popular parts will be watered down.

And the Republican’s marketing will then focus on convincing us we can pay for all this health care without any pain.

Just like the Iraq invasion was going to be paid for with all that extra oil that fell into our laps.

Or the way tax cuts always pay for themselve with economic growth.

Vague promises like these will be flowing out of every Republican mouth for months to come.

And get ready to hear a lot about the magical benefits of allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines. Despite the fact that 6 states already allow this and it has lead to no new competition.

The specifics may vary but the entire repeal and replace affair will focus on marketing, sloganeering and name calling.

And the cornerstone talking point will be something about how the free market will drive down cost through efficiencies and more competition. Just like in the days before Obamacare. You remember those good ole days, don’t you?

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