05/22/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Next: The War of Words on Health Care

If the health reform reconciliation passes in the senate, the next stage will be a war of words.

I'm moving on. The phase of fighting for a better bill is over. Progressives lost. We were screwed, lied to, deceived. But today is today and we need to deal with what's on the table today.

We need to reassess relationships and get down to work. For one thing, we want to get behind Alan Grayson's bill that allows anyone to buy into medicare. And we need to minimize the damage done this fall. Regardless of how they feel about the current bill, Progressives don't want more right wingers in congress and don't want teabaggers in congress. Wishing for that is what my late mother called "cutting off your nose to spite your face."

The Republicans have telegraphed their big punch -- attack on passing a bill that is not paid for, that is going to raise taxes and take away freedom. They think they have a slam dunk... or at least that's what they said repeatedly in their failed efforts to intimidate bluedog Democrats. They're also going to hammer on the fact that there is a mandate for everyone to buy health insurance. I'm just not sure how big a deal that is. I think that most of the people who vote for Republicans already have insurance and have been paying for it. People who can't afford it will get help, and anyway, the mandated payments don't kick in this year.

The GOP thinks the health care reform bill will become the Democrats' epitath. It's up to the dems to prove them wrong, which is VERY doable. The Dems may be in better shape than the GOP and it's media surrogates suggest.  The Democrats have been planning and setting up their position  and election strategy for the fall:

  • They ran public hearings where ten second video segments of GOP members could be used against them. 
  • They are presenting the legislation as historic, as important as civil rights legislation, as something that will enhance the USA's respect throughout the world. In other words, they're framing this as a noble, honorable act that embraces the values of the founders of the USA.

Then, the bill has immediate changes that will make some people happy:

  • Seniors will have their prescription "donut hole" partially filled, with a $250 rebate.  
  • Small businesses will see rebates coming to them to pay for health care. That will help a lot of small businesses and their employees. It will also help small businesses compete for better employees.
  • Families will be able to keep their young adults on their family plans until they turn 26, instead of the current policy of most insurers to drop children at age 19 or, until they finish college or turn 23.
  • Insurance companies won't be able to drop people from being covered when they get sick. This process, called recision, was usually done on the pretext that people had previously un-reported pre-existing conditions, like acne, spousal abuse, etc.
  • Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated.
  • Insurers will no longer be allowed to bar children from coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Parents will be able to sleep better knowing, if they lose their job, their sick child will still be eligible for health care.
  • Adults with pre-existing conditions will have access to health coverage through a new program

The $250 rebate is a big, obvious benefit. Most of the others may not be. It is up to the Democrats to get the mainstream media talking about those benefits, to use whatever means possible to make beneficiaries aware. Their history at messaging is not hopeful. If the Dems are smart, they'll literally invest millions, not in single campaigns, but in doing crowd-sourced, bottom up research -- focus groups, on-line polls, conventional polls -- to identify language, wording and talking points that are most effective in getting out a message that resonates and sticks. Every bullet listed above -- the positive ones that support them and the negative ones that attack them -- should be re-branded and reframed with simple phrases that people can understand and personally relate to. Consider how the right re-framed inheritance taxes as "the death tax."  I've thrown some off-the-top-of-my-head ideas after the benefits listed below, hilighted in green.

  • Seniors  prescription "donut hole":Rx Rescue or End the Medication versus Food choice

  • Small businesses health coverage rebates:  Helps Small Business Fund Health Care

  • young adults on family plans 'til 26: Protects your older children or Keep your Family Health Care Whole

  • Ending recision: Protection from rip-off cancellations when you get sick

  • Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated: End the illness coverage death balloon

  • Insurers can't bar children from coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Keeps your sick child covered, if you change or lose your job.

  • Adults with pre-existing conditions will have access to health coverage through a new program. Ends the Pre-existing condition Punishment

I know. Some of them are lame. Recently, I told Barbara Boxer the members of the senate needed to work on better word framing on the issues they were advocating. She replied that she was depending on the progressive media to help. Today, on Morning Joe, John Cornyn said almost the identical thing, when told that the Republicans had done a weak, ineffective job at telling the public about the tax increases that would come out of the bill.

So, get involved in some bottom-up crowdsourcing here. Make suggestions about framing AND about steps progressives need to take now to keep the change going so we move closer to public option and single payer. And while you're at it, come up with better framing for Public Option and single payer. Those words suck.

Crossposted from