Dem memo plots message war on insurers

House Democratic leaders have developed a coordinated strategy for attacking insurance companies to ward off attacks from opponents of their health care overhaul during the August break, according to a strategy memo obtained by The Hill.

“Our message is simple. It is now being echoed by the White House,” said the memo sent to all Democratic members. “And it counters the Republican ‘government takeover’ message.”

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The message in the memo, though, won't fit on a bumper sticker:

“Remove the insurance companies from between you and your doctor— capping what they can force you to pay in out of pocket expenses, co-pays and deductibles, and giving you the peace of mind you will be covered for the care you need, if get sick, or if you change or lose your job.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brought out the new message in an exchange with reporters in the Capitol, when she said, “They are the villains in this.”

The attack comes even though the health insurance industry hasn’t attacked President Obama’s plan or the legislation being hammered out in Congress.

But Democrats who’d pushed for a vote before the break are dreading an onslaught of advertisements funded by business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is putting $2 million toward fighting a Democratic proposal to create a government-run “public plan” to compete with private insurers.

To counter that, Democratic leaders will be coordinating media strategies and grassroots efforts with advocacy groups such as Health Care for America Now, Families USA and AARP, along with unions such as AFSCME and the Service Employees International Union.

In a briefing with reporters Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that Democrats have been losing the message war "a little bit" to Republicans. He said Democrats have had problems communicating with the bill as it changed in the legislative process.

“We’re responsible for putting together a plan. We've been focused on that,” Hoyer said. "Republicans have been free to conjure up whatever they want.”

But now, he noted, some industry groups like the American Medical Association and the pharmaceutical industry who derailed reform in the 90s are on the side of Democrats who want to overhaul the system.

“Harry and Louise are going to be saying this is a good thing,” Hoyer said. “We're going to be on the air, we're going to be in the neighborhoods.”

In addition to noting presidential events, the three-page strategy document lays out a detailed campaign of district events, rapid response, and conference calls with lawmakers to update them on strategy.

The web plan includes a Facebook page, a Twitter campaign, and even a “Hidden Tax Clock” modeled after the National Debt Clock. It will push the Democratic talking point that American's are already paying a hidden tax by subsidizing the uninsured.

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