Liberal groups plan to mount a campaign to save Obamacare, sharing the personal stories of thousands of Americans who would lose health insurance in a last-ditch effort to block Republicans’ agenda to gut the law early next year.
The goal of the campaign is to take back the narrative from Republican critics who depict the law as a government boondoggle by spotlighting how it has helped millions of Americans who wouldn’t otherwise have health insurance. The campaign will fly in Obamacare enrollees to try to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, lobby members in their home districts, hold rallies and run ads on social media.
“The most important piece is getting the stories out,” said one source with knowledge of the coalition’s plans. “These are not Democrats that are going to lose their health coverage. It’s everyone.”
The groups also hope to put pressure on Republicans to simultaneously offer an effective proposal to replace Obamacare to ensure that the 20 million people who’ve gained coverage under the law don’t lose their benefits, if the repeal efforts move forward.
“It’s just irresponsible for Congress to repeal aspects of the ACA without addressing the issue of replacement,” said Rob Restuccia, executive director of Community Catalyst. “It’s a very cynical strategy that puts at risk millions of people, and potentially not just people who are currently uninsured, but the whole health care system.”
The Center for American Progress Action Fund — a group with close ties to the Obama White House — has set up ACAworks.org to solicit stories from individuals who would lose their insurance if Republicans repeal the law. Several groups are also organizing events starting next week in hopes of protecting the coverage gains.
Families USA, Community Catalyst and Doctors for America are also briefing supporters Wednesday afternoon about a “Week of Action” with events from Dec. 12 to Dec. 15.
“The huge number of people who would lose coverage, there is no way anyone would not have empathy [for their] plight,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. “It is really irresponsible to pass a repeal at a point where nobody understands what will take its place.”
Families USA — whose leader, Pollack, was instrumental in getting the ACA passed and has been one the law’s most vocal defenders — has written in fundraising materials that the organization this month will “be running an aggressive online and organizing campaign to mobilize support for the ACA in key states.”
Another key figure in the campaign is Leslie Dach, a former top HHS staffer with close ties to Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Other organizations involved in the coalition include the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the National Partnership on Women and Families.
If the ACA is repealed, the number of uninsured people would rise from 29 million to nearly 59 million in 2019, according to the Urban Institute. That’s more than the number of people now covered by Obamacare because it counts those now buying coverage in the individual market but outside of the exchanges. Predictions are the individual market will implode if the GOP moves ahead to repeal the law without replacing it.
“This scenario does not just move the country back to the situation before the ACA. It moves the country to a situation with higher uninsurance rates than was the case before the ACA’s reforms,” the authors wrote in the analysis released Wednesday.
The campaign comes as major health industry players are also sounding alarms over GOP plans. Groups representing hospitals on Tuesday said undoing the law’s coverage expansions, which have provided health insurance to more than 20 million people, would create an “unprecedented public health crisis.” The main health insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, has also recommended specific policies to ensure a smooth transition away from Obamacare.
Republicans in Congress are planning to use a fast-track budget process to repeal major parts of the health care law with 51 votes. Under budget reconciliation, the GOP is seeking to undo the law’s Medicaid expansion and subsidies for exchange coverage, the individual and employer mandates, as well as a number of taxes on different industries.
GOP leaders have said they will move in early January to begin the repeal process. But there’s disagreement about how quickly they must come up with a transition to a new system. Obamacare’s staunchest critics have pushed for as little as six months, while GOP leaders have said it could take as long as three years.
Supporters of the health law, however, say a “repeal and delay” strategy would be just as catastrophic, as insurers would likely pull out from the Obamacare markets before the transitional period ended.