Democrats Go Nuclear in Obamacare Messaging War

Locked out of government, Democratic lawmakers turn to scare tactics and catchphrases to save ACA

Democrats on Capitol Hill huddled Wednesday with President Obama, desperate to turn the tables on GOP plans to repeal his signature legacy item: the Affordable Care Act.

Relegated to minority status in both houses of Congress and armed with little in the way of positive facts to bolster Obamacare’s public image, Democrats elected for one of the few tools available to them in the defense of the embattled health care law. During a press conference following their meeting with the outgoing president, Democratic lawmakers escalated their apocalyptic rhetoric about the impacts of an ACA repeal.

“The Republican plan to cut health care wouldn’t make America great again; it would make America sick again.”

“The Republican plan to cut health care wouldn’t ‘Make America Great Again;’ it would ‘Make America Sick Again,'” charged Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “They seek to rip health care away from millions of Americans, creating chaos in our entire economy.”

The doom and gloom rhetoric from Schumer was echoed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“This [is] an assault on the health security and financial security that goes with what the Affordable Care Act has done for the American people. So make America sick again? Is that what the Republicans want to do? I certainly hope not,” Pelosi said.

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Democrats failed to address the damage to Americans’ health care options and costs wrought by Obamacare itself.

Americans, regardless of their participation on the health care exchanges, face growing premiums and deductibles, while those who rely on the exchanges for their health care face dwindling choices as more and more private insurers abandon them.

During the press conference, Pelosi actually asserted that the only thing the Republicans’ plan to “repeal and replace” Obamacare has “going for it is alliteration.” The irony of whacking “Repeal and Replace” as a hollow catchphrase in a press conference based on a hollow catchphrase — “Make America Sick Again” — seemed lost on Pelosi and the assembled Democratic lawmakers.

But Republicans “have no idea what to put in place of the Affordable Care Act,” Schumer insisted. “Republicans will soon learn that you can’t keep the good parts of the ACA and remove the rest of the law and still have it work,” he said.

Despite Schumer’s assertion, Republicans have a very good idea of what to put in place of the Affordable Care Act — it involves allowing insurers to sell insurance across state lines and establishing health care savings accounts.

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Moreover, it is difficult to discern of what “good parts” Schumer was speaking. Not only are costs rising and exchanges collapsing, but the increase in the number of Americans who have health insurance is almost entirely owed to Medicaid expansion.

Not only are Democrats in the difficult position of trying to defend a spectacularly failed law — they are also defending a law with which the American people are largely unsatisfied. A September 2016 Gallup poll revealed that a majority — 51 percent — of Americans disapproved of Obamacare.

That same poll found that 29 percent of Americans said Obamacare has hurt them and their family, while only 18 percent said the ACA has helped them and their family, and 36 percent of Americans believed Obamacare would leave their families’ health care even worse off in the long run.

A Politico poll taken in the same month found that 54 percent of Americans thought Obamacare was “working poorly,” while a December 2016 CBS poll discovered that half of Americans disapproved of Obamacare. Only 10 percent of respondents in the CBS poll said that Obamacare should be kept in place as is.

The two polls were conducted before the administration admitted that 2017 would bring an average increase of 25 percent to “silver plan” premiums nationwide.

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Knowing Obamacare has been losing territory politically, Democrats also sought to rebrand the health care battle Wednesday. Democrats repeatedly referred to the law as the Affordable Care Act and called Republican repeal plans “Trumpcare.”

Democrats know they are caught in the awkward position of defending a law the American people don’t want. During the presidential campaign, President Bill Clinton called Obamacare “crazy.”

Even Chuck Schumer — yes, the very same Chuck Schumer who today railed against Republican attempts to “rip health care away from millions of Americans, creating chaos in our entire economy” — was at one point honest enough to admit that Obamacare was a massive mistake.

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus,” he said in a speech at the National Press Club in 2014. “Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs — not for changes in their health care.”

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