Rep. Pence Relies On Misleading Talking Points From Health Insurance Industry-Funded Pollster

July 14, 2009 5:33 pm ET

On July 14, 2009, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence issued a statement regarding health care reform.  Unfortunately, Rep. Pence simply regurgitated misleading talking points written by health insurance-industry funded pollster Frank Luntz.

Frank Luntz Cashes Checks From The Nation's Largest Health Insurance And Pharmaceutical Companies

Frank Luntz's Clients Include Some Of America's Largest Heath Insurance And Pharmaceutical Companies.  According to the website of Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research, the firm's clients include Blue Cross Blue Shield, Consumer Healthcare Products Association, CIGNA Dental Health, HIP Health Plan of New York and Pfizer. [Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research, accessed 6/17/09]

Rep. Pence Relies On The Luntz-Inspired "Government Takeover" Talking Point

Rep. Pence: "The American people have no stomach for a government takeover of health care that will lead to fewer jobs, higher taxes and less health coverage." [Pence Statement, 7/14/09]

Luntz Memo, Rule 5: "The healthcare denial horror stories from Canada & Co. do resonate, but you have to humanize them.  You'll notice we recommend the phrase "government takeover" rather than "government run" or "government controlled."  It's because too many politician [sic] say "we don't want a government run healthcare system like Canada or Great Britain" without explaining the consequences.  There is a better approach. 'In countries with government run healthcare, politicians make YOUR healthcare decisions. THEY decide if you'll get the procedure you need, or if you are disqualified because the treatment is too expensive or because you are too old.  We can't have that in America.'" [The Language of Healthcare 2009, by Frank Luntz, accessed 5/21/09, emphasis original]

By an overwhelming margin, Americans want their government to have a proactive role in health care.

  • Nearly 70% Of Americans Want A Government Option.  A new poll released by Quinnipiac University revealed that 69% of Americans want a government-run health insurance option. [, 7/1/09]
  • Nearly 60% Of Americans See Government Involvement In Health Care As A Way To Curb High Costs.  According to a Washington Post/ABC poll: "58 percent said they see government reform as necessary to stall skyrocketing costs and expand coverage for the uninsured." [Washington Post, 6/24/09]
  • More Than 60% Of Americans Think The Federal Government "Should Guarantee" Health Care For All Americans.  According to a CNN poll, 62% of Americans "think the federal government should guarantee health care for all Americans." [CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, 5/14-17/09]

Rep. Pence Relies On The Luntz-Inspired "Washington Bureaucrat" Talking Point

Rep. Pence: "House Republicans will oppose Washington bureaucrats standing between patients and the care they need." [Pence Statement, 7/14/09]

Luntz Memo, Rule 2: "Acknowledge the 'crisis' or suffer the consequences.  If you say there is no healthcare crisis, you give your listener permission to ignore everything else you say.  It is a credibility killer for most Americans. A better approach is to deny the crisis in your terms.  'If you're one of the millions who can't afford healthcare, it is a crisis.' Better yet, 'If some bureaucrat puts himself between you and your doctor, denying you exactly what you need, that's a crisis.' And the best: 'If you have to wait weeks for tests and months for treatment, that's a healthcare crisis.'" [The Language of Healthcare 2009, by Frank Luntz, accessed 5/21/09, emphasis original]

Right now, there are bureaucrats standing between Americans and their doctors - insurance company bureaucrats.  

  • Insurance Bureaucrats Stand Between Americans And Their Doctors.  Dr. Howard Dean said on MSNBC: "Right now there is a bureaucrat between you and your doctor, and it's that private health insurance bureaucrat." [MSNBC transcript and video via MadvilleTimes, accessed 6/17/09]

The "crisis" is very real and shouldn't simply be given lip service.  Americans cannot afford health care if they are purchasing as an individual or have a history of illness.

  • "Twenty Percent Of Americans Say They Have Delayed Or Postponed Medical Care, Mostly Doctor Visits, And Many Said Cost Was The Main Reason." According to MSNBC: "Twenty percent of Americans say they have delayed or postponed medical care, mostly doctor visits, and many said cost was the main reason, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters released on Monday. That figure is up since 2006, the last time the question was asked on the survey, when 15.9 percent of people said they had postponed or canceled medical care in the past year." [, 4/20/09]
  • Without COBRA Or Other Health Coverage, People "Are More Likely To Forgo Needed Medical Care And Incur Medical Debt."  A December 2008 report released by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured stated: "many workers find that after losing a job they are not able to afford the premiums required to continue employer-sponsored insurance through COBRA...Without insurance, these adults are more likely to forgo needed medical care and incur medical debt.  They are also at risk of having their health problems treated as pre-existing conditions if they later regain employer-sponsored coverage."  [, accessed 1/14/09]
  • 2008 Study: "The Total Premiums To Cover A Family Are Up To $12,680."  The National Conference of State Legislatures reported: "In 2008 the average fully insured individual faced an employee share of $725 for 1-person coverage and a $3,354 annual share for family coverage.  The total premiums to cover a family are up to $12,680 according to the annual Kaiser/HRET survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits." [, accessed 1/13/09, emphasis added]

The GOP Plan Is Inadequate

Rep. Pence: "Republicans will fight for reform that expands access to affordable health care and gives people the freedom to choose the health care that is best for their families, without imposing a jobs-killing tax hike on small businesses." [Pence Statement, 7/14/09]

Luntz Memo, Rule 10: "It's not enough to just say what you're against.  You have to tell them what you're for.  It's okay (and even necessary) for your campaign to center around why this healthcare plan is bad for America.  But if you offer no vision for what's better for America, you'll be relegated to insignificance at best and labeled obstructionist at worst. What Americans are looking for in healthcare that your 'solution' will provide is, in a word, more: 'more access to more treatments and more doctors...with less interference from insurance companies and Washington politicians and special interests.'" [The Language of Healthcare 2009, by Frank Luntz, accessed 5/21/09, emphasis and ellipses original]

The GOP has proven that it is for preserving the status quo, keeping insurance donations in their campaign coffers, and blaming Americans for their lack of health coverage.

The Republicans plan to tax employer-based health coverage to fund a tax credit to families that is meant to help offset the costs of health care - a tax credit that is nowhere close to the amount needed to purchase health coverage for the average American family.

  • Republican Plan Allots $5,710 Tax Credit For Families To Purchase Health Coverage. "The Patient's Choice Act of 2009 would restore equity in the tax code and give every American, regardless of employment status, the ability to purchase health insurance by: Providing an advanceable and refundable tax credit of $2,290 per individual or $5,710 per family." [Patients Choice Act, 4/09, emphasis added]
  • Health Coverage For A Family Of Four "Nearly $12,700." According to the National Health Care Coalition: "The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $12,700. The annual premium for single coverage averaged over $4,700." [, accessed 5/19/09; emphasis added]