Expect demonstrators to brandish placards reading “Hands off my health care!” and demanding a repeal of the 2010 health-care law. Expect doctors in white lab coats and patients who have suffered at the hands of insurance companies to hold news conferences lauding the law’s consumer protections and pleading for its preservation.
Backers see a moment to educate and sell Americans on a law that continues to confuse and divide them, and that has become a key issue in the presidential campaign.
Opponents will direct their energy toward Congress, the potential next front in the fight if the court upholds the law.
“Even if some of the law is [ruled] constitutional, it doesn’t mean it has to stay in place. It can be changed, it can be amended,” said Jennifer Stefano, director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the conservative organization Americans for Prosperity and who is organizing several hundred protesters from her state.
The two sides’ differing goals are reflected in the types of events each is planning.
A coalition of several dozen groups in favor of the law, ranging from advocacy organizations such as Families USA and Health Care for America Now to faith leaders, physicians associations and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are seeking to maximize their exposure to media outlets across the country.
They will bring in 27 talk-radio hosts who broadcast to 48 states, setting them up in a building across the street from the court. A steady stream of guests have been scheduled including members of Congress, prominent policy advocates who favor the health-care law, and at least a dozen of whom the activists have dubbed “real people” with stories about how the statute directly benefits them.
They also will be made available to other journalists at a nearby media tent and will headline news conferences on the court steps each morning before the hearings begin.
The plan has the backing of the Obama administration, which recently hosted a meeting to help activists coordinate their efforts.
The SEIU and other groups in the coalition are reaching out to their membership to round out the news conferences with a crowd of placard-waving supporters. But organizers say their emphasis is on creating multiple opportunities for those with the most compelling perspectives to communicate directly with the public.
“The whole purpose is to humanize this,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA.
It’s an effort that has kept the group’s director of communications, Dave Lemmon, at his Washington office late into the evening over the past several weeks.
On a recent morning, he sat with another staffer whittling down a list of doctors and nurses interested in speaking at the first morning news conference, which is intended to highlight views from the medical community.
Next came a meeting with a second staffer to look over a draft speech by a young Montana woman whose father died after repeated denials by his insurance company delayed a bone marrow transplant. The appeals process could be considerably streamlined under the health-care law.