Reporter's Notebook

As Lawmakers Roam Their Home Territory, Health Law Arguments Simmer

By Mary Agnes Carey

August 13th, 2013, 6:12 AM

The battle over the Affordable Care Act shows absolutely no signs of abating, so it’s no surprise that the packets distributed by both parties on Capitol Hill for members heading home for the August recess paint the 2010 health care law in starkly different ways.

Photo by Karl Eisenhower/KHN

Before leaving town for the five-week-long break, House Republicans held their 40th vote to defund all or part of the measure, and supporters and opponents alike have already shown up at town hall meetings during the congressional break to let their lawmakers know how they feel about the law, dubbed Obamacare.

The packets reflect the parties’ philosophies about the law. Republicans see it as a massive job killer that will wreak havoc with the nation’s health care system. Democrats say the law will bring affordable, comprehensive health insurance to millions of Americans who don’t have it and improve coverage for those who do.

The House Republican recess packet offers an array of tips, such as have a conversation with a health care provider, tour a local hospital or clinic to get “the local, real-world detriments” of the law.  GOP members are also advised to meet with “millennials,” young people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s,  about the health law’s “ongoing and impending consequences.”

A “pocket card” given to Senate Republicans highlights the “Obamacare Sinking Ship,” citing the Obama administration’s decision to postpone for one year a requirement that most employers with 50 workers or more provide coverage or pay a fine. They also note opinion polls that show support for the law has weakened among moderate and conservative Democrats and complaints from some unions that the health law will weaken workers’ benefits packages.

Materials distributed to Democrats highlight the law’s provisions that are helping seniors save on prescription drugs and many preventive care services that now require no cost sharing.  Democrats are also urged to highlight that, starting in January, insurers can’t deny coverage of pre-existing medical conditions and to promote the law’s online marketplaces, or exchanges, that are scheduled to be up and running Oct. 1.

All the guidance in the world may not mean much, however, when lawmakers come face-to-face with the voters back home. According to a report in the Asheville, N.C., Citizen-Times, at a town hall meeting,  Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.,  got some angry questions  about why he has voted to defund or repeal the health law.  Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., admitted to a local audience, according to an account in the Columbus  (Neb.) Telegram, that some of those votes were “theatrics” that aren’t going anywhere.

3 Responses to “As Lawmakers Roam Their Home Territory, Health Law Arguments Simmer”

  1. Anti-Texan says:

    America is the wealthiest nation with the most expensive healthcare in the world. It’s free-market Republican style healthcare where competition amongst providers and insurers is supposed to keep prices down. Anyone see that happening? It’s a competitive style of healthcare where when you travel outside of your network of providers, you virtually have no coverage. Best healthcare in the world? Yeah! Right! Go tell that to someone from Canada or the UK.

  2. kieke okma says:

    The only way countries anywhere in the world have succeeded in keeping health expenditures down, is to use some form of collective muscle flexing, by bargaining on national or regional levels between public agencies and representatives of health insurance, horpitals, physicians and other health care providers, or by setting budget limits. The U.S. Veterans Health Administration is a good example, so are Canade and several countries in Western Europe and Asia.
    Thw U.S. Spends almost 18 percent of its national income on health care, Canada about 12 percent and all other industrialized nations around 10 percent. We cannot master the cost escalation of pharmaceuticals if there is no (organized) bargaining power on behalf of patients, insured and taxpayers.
    The countries that tried competition (between insurers, or between providers) like the U.K., Switzerland or The Netherlands saw a dramatic rise is health expenditure, and declining trust in private insurance in the latter two countries.
    Perhaps it is time to turn the attention of the current debate away from short time skirmishes and take a long term perspective of what Americans need and favor and can afford, collectively.

    Kieke okma, New York

  3. The GOP talking points are weak.

    They’ll get excoriated and laughed out of town telling an uninsured cancer patient getting a subsidy on the exchange how Obamacare is bad for him.

    Can you just imagine the political ads coming before then next election? The Republicans should try to back away gracefully. Fighting the healthcare law could bury them in the midterm elections.

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