Republicans are focused on collecting constituent stories to attack the health care law. But without a viable health care alternative, they have few solutions to offer those sharing their experiences.
Last Thursday, Mary Swanson shared her Obamacare story with members of Congress from her home in southwest Michigan.
A Realtor who recently received a cancellation letter from her insurance company, Swanson said she and her husband will be facing large increases in coverage costs under the health care law. "We both work in fields that are very volatile, because it's totally dependent on the housing market," she said on a Google Hangout with Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and John Shimkus, R-Ill.
"That is really bad," Upton responded. "That is really bad."
As problems with Obamacare implementation continue, House Republicans are developing an increasingly organized attack plan going into the Thanksgiving holiday. The strategy is outlined in an anti-Obamacare "playbook," with an emphasis on collecting constituent stories that illustrate negative impacts of the law.
"Over the break we are encouraging members to start collecting stories related to increased premiums/costs as well as security concerns," Nate Hodson, communications director for the House Republican Conference, wrote in an email. "Our goal is to encourage offices to use these stories in all forms of communication — whether on the floor, in hearings, in press releases, on social media, etc."
House Republicans are reaching out to constituents through social media, emails, and their websites, and individuals are encouraged to submit their stories at www.gop.gov/yourstory.
"Health care is an extremely personal issue, so there is nothing more powerful to communicate than the personal stories of those being impacted by this law," Hodson wrote.
Two Google Hangouts at the end of last week were the first focused specifically on Obamacare since implementation began. Hodson says moving forward, a handful each week will be focused on the health care law.
"Thank you for being here," Shimkus greeted the three individuals on the hangout. "We're real people here, you're real people out there, we need to hear your stories."
Yet without a feasible Republican health care alternative, representatives have little to offer those sharing their stories.
"You're with millions of other Americans thinking exactly the same thoughts," Upton told Tim Brown, whose insurance plan was recently canceled. "We don't have the right answer that we'd like to provide for you."
At no point did the lawmakers suggest the participants look into whether they would be eligible for subsidies or would have any other options under the law.
Those participating in the hangouts are primarily individuals whose prior plans have been canceled, yet the lawmakers made no mention of President Obama's recent announcement that individuals could keep health plans that aren't Affordabe Care Act-compliant for another year if insurers decided to extend them. Upton's bill allowing individuals to keep their plans was mentioned several times as a potential solution, though Upton acknowledged it would not pass the Senate.
"House Republicans have continued to offer ideas," Rory Cooper, communications director for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, wrote in an email. "But any real reform that lowers costs and increases access must begin with the repeal of Obamacare."
With repeal still an unrealistic goal, and little unity behind a distinct Obamacare alternative, the strategy's end goal remains unclear. Yet as they return to their districts for the holiday, Republicans remain committed to collecting stories as ammunition against the law.
"I hope y'all keep the heat up on it," Brown urged the lawmakers at the end of the call.
"Oh we will," Upton responded. "The burner's on high."