White House Releases Final Talking Points: Reform Good For Average Person, GOP Good For Average Insurer

A new set of White House talking points offers a preview of how the Democrats will frame health care reform once President Obama signs the legislation into law. Crafted by David Axelrod and already popping up in Obama’s stump speech, the talking points are focused on two key themes – what will health care reform do for the average person, and a suggestion that Republicans are defending big insurance.

The 14-page PowerPoint presentation sent to House Democrats and obtained by TPMDC advises rank-and-file members to keep it simple and focus on the 85 percent of people with health insurance.

The talking points were delivered at a recent caucus meeting for House Democrats by Axelrod’s senior adviser David Simas. Capitol Hill aides say members will try out the messaging during the next break and if they work, expect to hear them a lot in the fall.For example, the talking points suggest that Democrats remind voters at every turn that Republican ideas are included in the bill, but note that there are places they can’t agree.

“Despite all that we agree on and all the Republican ideas we’ve incorporated, many Republicans in Congress just have a fundamental disagreement over whether we should have more or less oversight of insurance companies,” the White House suggested.

The word “control” appears several times in the talking points, and one line was repeated almost world for word in Obama’s health care speech in Ohio yesterday.

“Now, I don’t believe we should give the government or insurance companies more control over health care in America. I believe it’s time to give you, the American people, more control over your own health insurance,” Obama said, in a close paraphrase of what the White House suggested members should say.

The White House encourages Democrats to direct their press releases and events back home to the 85 percent of Americans who have health insurance. For example: “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” The presentation also recommends Democrats tell voters the legislation holds insurers accountable, ends the “worst practices” of insurers, gives families more insurance choices and cuts costs for everyone.

A few weeks ago I detailed the new Democratic plan, with members telling me they would go all out to win the message war and avoid a repeat of the August town halls.

Also key to winning over the American people – stressing the benefits of the legislation that would kick in this year.

They are:

Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;
Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;
Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;
Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs;
Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
Require plans to cover an enrollee’s dependent children until age 26;
Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
Relief on the Donut Hole.

As we wrote Monday, House leaders are advising members against getting caught in process arguments with the Republicans. But the White House talking points suggest members say, “Reconciliation is OK.”

One suggested line to defend the use of that parliamentary tactic is one we’ve heard a lot from the White House:

Congress has been debating health care reform for years and the American people deserve an up or down vote. We shouldn’t hide behind rules to prevent us from going on record and casting a vote for or against reform. This is about giving Americans what they’re entitled to: a clear vote showing what people stand for and believe and where the majority vote rules.

Read the talking points in full here.

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