GOP Playbook Looks to Capitalize on Obamacare Woes

Screenshot of Playbook

House Republicans have handed out an internal GOP playbook on how to best score political points against Obamacare, the White House and Democrats in general.

The memo obtained by CQ Roll Call, titled “House Republican Playbook: Because of Obamacare ... I Lost My Insurance,” is a manual for House Republicans on how to highlight the recent issues with the health care law and how to best “communicate in your district about the disastrous Obamacare rollout.”

Of particular interest to Republicans is the president’s oft-repeated line that "if you like you health insurance, you can keep it."

In the “Broken Promises” section, Republicans point to two promises the president used to sell the Affordable Care Act: “1) If you like what you have, you can keep it. Period. And 2) Health care costs will go down for all Americans, and ‘save a typical family an average of $2,500...’ Each of these promises has now been broken,” the playbook says.

“Millions of Americans will lose the plan they have and like: Despite President Obama’s promise that you can keep the plan you have and like, we now know at least 7 million Americans will lose their employer provided insurance as a result of Obamacare,” the memo said in its Talking Points section.

That particular talking point links to a May 2013 Congressional Budget Office document on the effects of the health care law, which, in a footnote, estimates that 7 million people will “newly enroll” in employment-based coverage under Obamacare.

Republicans also seem to use that footnote in the Fast Facts section, where the playbook claims the administration “knows it needs seven million individuals to enroll in 2014 to be financially sustainable.”

The memo says 6,200 people completed health care applications on the first day HealthCare.gov went online. In the first week, 51,000 people completed applications, it asserts. And the administration, the memo said, has spent $267 million on the "underlying system" and $500 million on the "online effort." Republicans, however, do not provide sources for those claims.

While Republicans clearly believe HealthCare.gov is a floundering mess, they see their own online efforts as a primary way to highlight the other flaws in the law.

For instance, the 17-page playbook encourages House Republicans to use the Republican Conference’s #YourStory project to encourage their constituents to submit Obamacare feedback.

“Obamacare is much more than a bad website; it’s a bad law,” the #YourStory section said. That’s an increasingly common talking point among Republicans recently as they have tried to show HealthCare.gov is just a symptom of the overall problems with the Affordable Care Act.

“You know, the problem with Obamacare isn’t just the website, it’s the whole law,” Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in his opening lines of an Oct. 29 news conference with GOP leaders.

Republicans seem to be shifting their focus from website woes to overall problems, and the playbook suggests that very move.

“Premiums are increasing,” the memo said, and the administration “now acknowledges premiums will increase as a result of Obamacare.”

To prove that talking point, the memo links to a March 2013 news story where Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters “there may be a higher cost associated with getting into [the health insurance] market.”

Time will be the ultimate test of that claim, though it does appear that some could be facing higher costs for insurance.

“Millions more uninsured,” a talking point said. However, that statement does not make clear that the law itself will not cause people to be uninsured. Instead, the memo relies on data showing that fewer people are likely to take advantage of Obamacare than originally estimated.

The GOP packet also features a “Sample Op-Ed,” heavily cribbed from an opinion piece from Republican Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado on losing his private health insurance; about a dozen sample Tweets and Facebook posts from members that “communicate our position”; videos for Republicans to post on their various social media; digital flyers bashing the health care law; and an Obamacare Timeline, a calendar for when various aspects of the law are being implemented.

The playbook — which literally has a clip-art image of an Xs-and-Os football play in it (albeit with 10 Os and eight Xs) — is chock-full of Republican strategies for poking holes in the health care law and pointing out the number of measures Republicans have taken to dismantle it.

Democrats, for their part, suggested Republicans were distorting the truth and only focusing on the negative.

“Are House Republicans so blinded by their obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act that they’ll ignore any and all stories of Americans who are already benefiting from the health care law?” a Democratic leadership aide asked CQ Roll Call. “The American people expect their elected leaders to work together to implement and improve the health care law, but it appears House Republicans are only interested in sabotaging it. House Republicans need a new playbook.”

A spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also accused the GOP of attempting to "mislead."

"Brought to you by the authors of death panels, a guide to mislead the American people and discourage their own constituents from getting access to affordable health care," said Drew Hammill. "House Republicans need to stop the misinformation, abandon their obsession with repeal, and work with Democrats to strengthen the Affordable Care Act."

See the playbook here.