GOP Health Care Talking Points

Monday, July 20, 2009 5:31 PM

Editor's Note: The following is a memo that Republican message man Alex Castellanos sent to fellow GOP strategists this month.

To: GOP Health Care Advocates

Re: GOP Health Care Strategy

Fr: Alex Castellanos

July 7, 2009

The research Chairman Steele has conducted at the RNC on health care has produced some significant new insights allowing us to advance GOP interests in the health care debate.

Following are a few observations based on that work, understanding these views do not necessarily reflect those of the Republican National Committee.

Where We Start

We are fighting something bigger than policies or plans. The President and the Democrats are selling a cause. Never mind that their plans will actually increase costs for individuals and the country:

Their cause is reducing health care costs.

To the public, reducing health care costs is health care reform.

Quality: As Wes Anderson has noted, people are satisfied with the quality of their health care. Quality is not driving this debate.

Access: While everyone favors increasing access, access is only seen as a problem because of cost. Access alone, unrelated to cost, is not driving this debate.

Choice: Americans believe they have choice; so much so that it makes health care anarchic, confusing, and chaotic. Choice confusion, they tell us, allows the system to take advantage of them. Though more choice may be a solution, Americans do not perceive the lack of it as a problem. If anything, they perceive the abundance of choice as a problem. Choice is not driving this debate.

Cost is driving this debate.

We cannot compete with their cause v. our policies. We must compete with their cause v. our cause.

Our cause must be about what is driving this debate as well. Our cause must also be bringing down health care costs.

The good news is that reducing costs consistent with free-market principles is not only the GOP mission, it is also a different and better way of doing it than the Administration is proposing. We only need to congeal what have become our talking points into a cause. This cup needs a handle.


We need to bring new language to this debate. If we paint the house the same color, no one will notice anything has changed:

We will still be the same, outdated Republicans who have no new ideas and oppose everything. We have to bring something new to the game.

We tested new language on the survey.

The GOP Cause

"Republicans are here today for a cause: We want to help families and businesses get a hold of health care costs and bring them down. Health care costs every family and every business too much. We all know that and we have to fix that. Republicans see a new and better way of doing it.

"That's why we are excited to join the growing number of Americans supporting the patient-centered health care reform movement.

"We believe the patient-centered health care movement offers the best way to reduce health care costs, bottom-up, with patients and doctors in control.

"The old, top-down Washington-centered system the Democrats propose will empower Washington to restrict the cures and treatments your doctor can prescribe for you.

"Their Washington-centered system will end up costing trillions more, not less, and bankrupting the country. This is what they do - a trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon, our country ends up owing real money.

"It's time to look at health care reform in a new way.

"The President sees the problem. So do we. He talks of making health care more affordable. So do we. But we

have a completely different vision of how to fix it.

"Ulimately, with their Washington-centered plan, you won't be able to keep the things you like about your health care:

"In a nutshell, getting government more involved is not going to reduce costs. It will extend wait times, limit what you can get, cost you coverage; raise your taxes and the deficit.

"They tell us more Washington will make health care cost less. Really? Can we stop for a second and ask when Washington has made anything cost less?

"The truth is the Obama-Pelosi plan doesn't save money. Their Washington-centered plan, from Day One, costs a trillion more dollars.

"Common sense tells us, something is wrong here: Saving money on health care shouldn't be more expensive."

Slow Down, Mr. President

"The Obama Experiment with our health could change everything we like about our health care -- and our economy.

"This big a risk, that risky an experiment is not something leaders on either side should rush through Congress in a few days or weeks.

"This is 20% of our economy. This is our health care and our future. If we screw this up, it could last for generations. And Congress is trying to do this in two months! This should scare the living daylights out of all of us.

"Slow down, Mr. President. We can't afford to get health care wrong.

"President Obama is experimenting with America, too much, too soon, and too fast."

Key Message Point:

Even voters who support a "public plan" think Obama and Congress are moving too fast, with reckless speed, risking a huge part of our economy and our health care, when they don't know what reform would really bring.

If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it, and advance real reform that will actually help.

Key Message Point: We've got to "SLOW DOWN the OBAMA EXPERIMENT WITH OUR HEALTH."


The following is a menu of other bottom-up, common sense fixes (policy ideas) and new language that the patient-centered health care reform movement might support:

And From Here...

"... and as I said throughout the campaign, change never begins from the top down. It begins from the bottom up." President Obama, Feb. 9, 2009

Unfortunately, what President Obama promised during the campaign, he has abandoned as President. Instead of putting his faith in the American people and bringing change from the bottom up, he has put his trust in Washington and given us more, old, trickle-down big government. In health care and everywhere else, our President has given us nothing new. It's the same old thing, just bigger and more expensive: One federal pill for every ill.

Such old thinking from such a young President is a disappointment and it is time to put it behind us. The future belongs to those who really believe change comes from the bottom up -- from the American people and not Washington, DC.

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