Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)

If at first you don’t succeed, change the message. That’s the lesson learned when it comes to the new trillion dollar health law passed this spring.

One of the central advocacy groups who pushed for the Obamacare recently held a confidential “messaging” conference call with the progressive movement where they revealed the results of extensive polling on the new law. Remember when the left was confident their controversial health care vote would soon be cheered by the public? The thinking was that Jane and John Doe simply needed more time to understand the two and half thousand page bill, because the year-long health care debate wasn’t enough time for them to get a grasp on it.

The left might not want to hold their breath while waiting for the public to applaud their bill. That’s because the people know this bill better than progressives do. In fact, just yesterday the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll reported that favorability of the bill dropped to 43% in August. The professional left has now realized this and thus the reason for the advocacy group’s hush-hush “messaging” call.

It’s important to note what the left was told on the call not to say when speaking to Americans: “Don’t say the law will reduce costs and deficits.”

Read that again.

We were repeatedly promised that one of the best parts of this bill was that it would lower the national debt in the long term. It doesn’t take a health policy expert or an economist to understand why this can’t be. A simple logic test will do: how can we put 16 million more people on Medicaid and yet save money?

Answer: we can’t. Americans old and young knew it all along, while the left hoped they would forget thanks to a marketing blitz after the bill passed that was on par with the ’85 Bears defense. Look for progressives to audible away from this deeply unpopular piece of legislation this fall and talk about something – anything – but their landmark health care bill.

The problems with the fundamental structure of the new health care law are obvious.  First, the primary vehicle for increased coverage is Medicaid expansion.  Sixteen million individuals, 650,000 in Illinois, will be forced onto Medicaid, the joint federal-state partnership to cover low-income individuals.  These individuals will have trouble finding access to physicians and services and will be forced to seek care in prohibitively expensive emergency departments, increasing the cost of care to the federal government, states and privately-insured individuals.  This coverage expansion will not guarantee access to quality health care services.

Next, the federal government will provide $200 billion in annual subsidies for individuals to purchase insurance.  The funding comes from cuts to Medicare that will create problems in access to hospitals similar to those recently observed by physicians, according to Medicare’s own actuaries.  Additional funding will come from taxing individuals’ health insurance for the first time in history, but not until 2018. Instead of reforming the system, bending the health care cost curve and making health care more affordable to individuals, families and small-businesses, the left shifted costs onto the federal government and away from care for seniors. This approach is short-sighted and will continue to strain the budgets of individuals and families, and – to a greater extent – state and federal governments.

What’s needed is not a new message, but rather an incremental approach focused on lowering health care costs. We should expand health savings accounts, the fastest growing insurance coverage option for Americans, which have proven successful in both the public and private sectors. Forcing insurance companies to compete across state lines will help lower costs as well, and my AARP-endorsed bill to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare is a no-brainer.

PS:  I also keep a daily record on Twitter (#218hcr) and my website,, about the many reasons we need to repeal this flawed healthcare bill and replace it with commonsense reforms that lower costs first and foremost, thereby making insurance more affordable for people to purchase.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R) represents the Sixth District of Illinois.

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