Calling the August recess a health care battleground — as Stephanie did on Monday — has proven to be an understatement. The same right-wing, lobbyist-run groups who orchestrated the tax day tea parties are enlisting conservative activists to disrupt town halls and other health care reform events across the country.
A leaked strategy memo written by a volunteer for Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, encouraged activists to "artificially inflate your numbers [by spreading out]" and "be disruptive early and often." But it’s not just these DC-based PR firms and lobbyists who are promoting these behaviors. A Media Matters special report found that, once again, Fox News is getting in on the action. Watch the video below:
As Stephanie wrote on Monday, reform combatants are ready to do everything they can to stall reform. Over the past few weeks, the misinformation being spread by these groups has turned into outright lies. The August recess means that the fight for health insurance reform moves from Washington back to Minnesota, and it’s crucial that you make your voice heard.
Both HCAN and Organizing for America are putting lists of events across the state and you always can call your Members of Congress to voice your support. We can’t let these lobbyists and the special interests they represent to keep us from getting the reform our communities need — the cost of inaction is just to great. To put it plainly, while Congress is out of session this summer, 143,250 people will lose their health insurance coverage, 53,507 people will file for bankruptcy because they can’t pay their medical bills, and 1,265 people will die because they lack coverage. It’s time we stood up and said enough is enough.
If you’re concerned about anti-reform activists disrupting an event in your area, HCAN has some advice.
- 1. Do not debate on their "policy" points. Remember, they are seeking a platform to distort the truth about reform by making health care about abortion, rationing, euthanasia, etc. Rather than try to reply with the truth (which won’t move them anyway) we should respond with our message and at every turn re-focus the agenda on communicating with the Member of Congress.
- Interrupt them when they get disruptive and refocus the meeting: Line up a number of people who feel comfortable interrupting and prepare them with statements like:
- "Excuse me, I came today to listen to Representative XXX explain how this bill is going to make health care more affordable for me and my family. We’re being gouged by insurance companies that just want to make more profits while we struggle to keep up with premiums and co-pays. Representative, how are you going to fix that?"
- "I’m retired and can’t afford my prescription drugs because I’m on a fixed income. Representative, how is this bill going to affect me?"
- I want to hear the Representative speak. He’s the one voting on the bill. Representative, how will this bill help people who already have insurance at work?"
- "What I’m worried about is how we’re going to keep the insurance companies from continuing to charge people more for being sick and keep them from taking away coverage when we need it most. What’s the plan for that?"
- Don’t get into a shouting match with them. Instead, prep people on our side to keep raising the questions that we want answered. Repetition is the key. We need to arm our side with questions that play to the strength of our message and make sure we keep bringing them up over and over so that the press recognizes those central themes. We should also phrase those questions strategically to help move the message.
- "Over the last XX years, insurance company profits have risen XXX %; in this bill you would regulate insurance companies so that they can no longer deny people with pre-existing conditions and would have to play by fair rules. Isn’t that right, Representative XX?"
- "Isn’t it true that this bill would guarantee everyone a choice of public health insurance option that will lower cost overall in the system?"
- Address the MOC directly with a positive message: Remember, these Members need cover and they are getting beaten up by right wing zealots in these meetings. We want to let the Member know that we appreciate his efforts to hear constituents and that we, the majority, agree with him.
- We should demonstrate that we are the majority by chanting: When the other side gets too loud, we should shut them down with chants that counter their message like "Health Care Can’t Wait!" and "Health Care Delayed is Health Care Denied" and prep people to chant at key points when the other side gets most disruptive.
- Follow up with the Member one-on-one: This experience may have been trying for your MOC. Make sure that you thank him and that you let him know that the majority is with him. He needs to know that we will provide cover and support him at every turn for his leadership on this issue.