Document: Liberal Groups Plan Strategy For Health Care Defeat, Victory

A memo obtained by BuzzFeed details the strategy — and the worry. “The final messaging will be either celebratory or agitational in tone depending on the result,” Van Vranken writes.

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White House allies are already preparing a sweeping public relations campaign in response to next month’s Supreme Court ruling on President Obama’s health care law, one aimed at building political support for the law which ever way the court rules.

The strategy focuses on what the memo from an official at the group Health Care for America Now describes as “‘real people’ stories,” and the memo instructs allies that “people with stories and other speakers need to be recruited, trained and prepared to respond within 24 hours by the end of May.”

The memo was emailed to allies today by Herndon Alliance official Peter Van Vranken, (who said it was prepared by another liberal group, Health Care for American Now) and obtained by BuzzFeed, offers a glimpse into the broad campaign to save the Patien Protection and Affordable Care Act, which remains unpopular two years after its controversial passage, but some of whose provisions have broad popular support. The Herndon Alliance was described by Politico in 2009 as “the most influential group in the health arena that the public has never heard of,” is centrally coordinating liberal public relations efforts around health care. Health Care for America Now is another central liberal umbrella group that was central to campaigns to back the health care law.

“Coordinated messaging will be developed centrally at the [Protect Your Care]/[Know Your Care] table and shared community-wide,” the memo says, referring to a pair of new groups whose top officials include the president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden, former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, and one of President Obama’s main media consultants, Jim Margolis.

And the memo, along with laying out the details of strategy, reveals how concerned advocates are that the Supreme Court will rule against the individual mandate or against the full health care bill.

“It’s important and reasonable considering legal precedent to continue projecting confidence that the court will uphold the law but, at the same time, we must be truly prepared for any scenario,” the memo warns. “We should prepare advocates and activists who will participate in rapid response for an outcome that is mixed, muddled or even negative with a coordinated message with the public.”

The message should, according to the memo:

•Highlight the impact on people who benefit from the ACA;
•Simplify the outcome so average folks understand what happened and why;
•Avoids delving into arcane legal explanations or speculation on policy implications;
•Celebrates what we won and highlights the political agenda behind takeaways or lost benefits.

“The best way to demonstrate public outrage or public celebration about the decision is to stage an event that shows average people actually responding to the news. We can do this by organizing events as quickly after the announcement of the decision as possible while the media window is still open—ideally, within 12-24 hours,” the memo says. “The final messaging will be either celebratory or agitational in tone depending on the result, but we will need to have both versions prepared to go.”

Categories of suggested speakers include:

•Teachers who can talk about the impact of the decision on the future of kids;
•Docs/Nurses/Providers who can talk about impact on patients;
•Small Business People;
•State Legislators and other State Elected Officials who can talk about state impact;
•“Experts”, Academics and Advocates who are recognized authorities and will draw media attention;
•Hospital Administrators or Board Members, Community Health Center Directors, Nursing Home or Home Health Agency Administrators, etc. who can talk about jobs and services lost or gained.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue by the end of June.

CORRECTION: The memo was prepared by Health Care for America Now, not the Herndon Alliance, Van Vranken says. The document’s properties indicate that a HCAN official, field director Margarida Jorge, created the document.

The full memo is below.

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