The nonpartisan Congressional budget office delivered the bad news for the GOP in the Senate. Their health care bill, meant to replace Obamacare, would, reportedly, move 22 million away from health coverage in the next several years. Regardless of how the vote goes, this number is certain to have political public relations consequences.
Representatives, especially those seeking re-election in the midterms, will have to explain to their constituents why fewer people with health care is the right vote. It may not be easy, depending on who those people will be and what other details come out about the plan.
There is a bright side to the news for the GOP, though. According to the CBO, the bill would reduce deficits by about $321 billion as compared to the ACA. But that good news also has a downside for many voters. A good chunk of that savings would come from a 26 percent reduction in federal spending on Medicaid. This stipulation could allow political opponents to paint representatives as not caring about the poor and most vulnerable.
That’s a tough label to shake, once voters start buying it. Both sides of this vote need to have preemptive narratives in place and solid answers to specific questions before they are asked. Most importantly, the information needs to be easily accessible, understandable, and relatable. Most voters won’t take the time to read the bills in question. They will be informed – or misinformed – by the media they choose. So, that means representatives will have to be able to also anticipate and explain answers to inaccurate or incomplete questions.
Many of these lines of questioning will dig into the specific details of the bill, like how much of a subsidy certain insureds will qualify for, when, and why … or why not. Others will want to know why they don’t qualify for something a neighbor or friend does qualify for. And millions will still find the insurance market inscrutable without help.
What voters do understand, more than anything else, is how the legislation is hitting their wallet. That’s one of the stickiest problems for the GOP with the Senate plan. According to the CBO, premiums will “likely rise” next year and the year after that, before falling in subsequent years. Long-term, premium prices are expected to be lower than what they would be under the current plan. But that won’t help representatives trying to get re-elected in years where people saw their premiums rise … again and again. To win those hearts and minds will take more than “wait and see.”