The Party of (Less Than) Zilch

Ron Fournier
National Journal

You're working two jobs and have no health insurance, or are underinsured, or you worry about friends and family without coverage. Here's some news for you: Republicans in charge of the House have an aggressive, multipart health care plan.

Trouble is, their plan won't help you. It uses you. Heavy on politics and extra-light on policy, TheNew York Times reports on GOP efforts today:

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"WASHINGTON -- The memo distributed to House Republicans this week was concise and blunt, listing talking points and marching orders: "Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance." "Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs." "The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk." "Continue Collecting Constituent Stories."

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"The document, the product of a series of closed-door strategy sessions that began in mid-October, is part of an increasingly organized Republican attack on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature legislative initiative. Republican strategists say that over the next several months, they intend to keep Democrats on their heels through a multilayered, sequenced assault."

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"The idea is to gather stories of people affected by the health care law—through social media, letters from constituents, or meetings during visits back home—and use them to open a line of attack, keep it going until it enters the public discourse and forces a response, then quickly pivot to the next topic."

The story by Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg contains no mention of a unified GOP plan to help Americans secure affordable health insurance, because there is no such plan. After opposing President Obama's legislation that borrowed free-market ideas from Republicans (he turned away liberals' calls for a single-payer system), the GOP's only serious solution to the nation's health care crisis is defeating the Affordable Care Act. If you ask Republicans about their plan, they'll point to a website of warmed-over ideas and refuse to acknowledge that Obamacare is, in fact, a GOP idea.

What party leaders failed to realize is that Obama might kill the ACA on his own with inept management and deceptive communications, a possibility raised by many observers before the Oct. 1 launch (including me here). Rather than get out of Obama's path of self-destruction and focus energy on creating and promoting a positive, forward-looking health care agenda, the GOP has chosen to cement its reputation as the obstructionist party.

The New York Times story reveals the coming lines of attack: anecdotal illustrations of rate shock and people losing access to doctors. These are serious issues, and I could think of others. For one, how do you convince young Americans to buy health insurance when they're already adrift economically? But because of the GOP's narrow-minded focus on zero-sum-gain politics, only one party seems to be trying to help you. In a broader context, I wrote this week that Republicans are becoming "The Party of Zilch." True or not, that's the message their leaders are sending.

 

 

 

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