Democratic Group Plans Attacks on G.O.P. Efforts to Undermine Obama Health Care Law


Mr. Woodhouse said the Trump administration underscored the need for the group’s new mission last week, when officials announced that they plan to slash the government’s advertising budget for encouraging people to enroll in the health care marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services said the advertising budget for the open enrollment period that starts in November would be cut to by 90 percent, to just $10 million.

Democrats believe the reduction is an effort to destabilize the already shaky insurance markets by making sure that fewer people sign up for coverage. Officials countered that the spending was not necessary because most Americans already know about that the health insurance options that are available.

President Trump and Republicans have made no secret of their desire to get rid of the health care law. And they have repeatedly said they believe the insurance markets are failing. In March, Mr. Trump tweeted that “Obamacare is imploding. It is a disaster and 2017 will be the worst year yet, by far!”

But now that congressional attempts to repeal the law have failed, the Democratic operatives are betting that Mr. Trump and Republican lawmakers will take steps to weaken it administratively, including withholding subsidies that keep premiums low and failing to invest in keeping the HealthCare.gov website running during peak periods of enrollment.

Protect Our Care, which ran a campaign-style war room during the congressional repeal debate earlier this year, now plans to focus on publicizing those efforts.

“We will highlight stuff like the website going down” if it happens, Mr. Woodhouse said. “We will take our people out in the states and protest in front of Republican offices. We are going to create a hue and cry.”

Mr. Woodhouse takes over from Leslie Dach, a former Obama administration health care official who started the group the day after the November election. Mr. Dach, who will continue to advise the group as its campaign chairman, said the group will repeatedly highlight the Republican efforts to make the health care law fail.

Photo

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at the White House in June.

Credit
Al Drago for The New York Times

“The public clearly thinks that’s a bad idea, clearly thinks the administration wants this law to fail, and they don’t like it,” Mr. Dach said.

The group’s strategy is driven in part by Democratic polling that suggests Americans in both parties would be bothered by efforts to sabotage the health care law, Mr. Woodhouse said. A memo to be released Tuesday by Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, concludes that “continued efforts by Trump and congressional Republicans to undermine the Affordable Care Act will be deeply unpopular with voters, including many rank-and-file Republican voters.”

Protect Our Care, which gets its money from labor groups, wealthy individuals and foundations, has already begun spending small amounts of money to buy online ads. Last month, the group circulated a video in ten Republican House districts urging them to “stand up against Trump’s sabotage of the health care system.”

The group also placed banner ads on websites in those districts. For example, the group targeted Representative Peter Roskam, Republican of Illinois, with an ad that asked: “Will Rep. Roskam Stand Up to Trump’s sabotage.”

Protect Our Care also intends to target Mr. Price, a former member of Congress and an orthopedic physician who has become the chief health care spokesman for Mr. Trump’s administration. The Democratic group plans to highlight what Mr. Price says about the Affordable Care Act and efforts he makes to undermine it.

In addition to a website about Mr. Price, the group plans to begin a begin an aggressive media campaign designed to make people question Mr. Price’s statements and actions.

“We want to make him as least credible on these issues as we possibly can,” Mr. Woodhouse said. “Putting Tom Price in charge of the health care law is no different than putting the Cookie Monster in charge of dessert rationing. He doesn’t want to support the health care law. He wants to get rid of it.”

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