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Health law supporters prepare strategy

Health law supporters prepare strategy

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WASHINGTON • In the aftermath of Republicans' midterm election victories, proponents of the health care overhaul are huddling in an effort to thwart GOP efforts to eviscerate the measure.

"A week ago Tuesday was like a cold shower for some of the organizations that felt that job had been done, that health reform was enacted into law and will be a reality," says Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a consumer group. "If anything, the election results are re-energizing the many groups that worked hard to get the legislation enacted."

Pollack hosted a session Tuesday with about 20 groups representing patients, labor, consumers and health care providers, among others. It was one of many meetings that backers of the law have held since the elections, and more such sessions are anticipated in the coming weeks.

Among the ideas of how to respond:

• Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry says supporters should promote items such as the law's small-business tax credits and keeping adult children up to age 26 on their parents' health insurance and emphasize the law will 'stop this trading of wages for health care that has been going on in the economy for decades."

• Consumers Union's DeAnn Friedholm says helping states' implementation efforts — in particular their oversight of health insurance rates — is critical, as is helping consumers understand how the provisions work.

• Health Care for America Now executive director Ethan Rome says advocates must make it clear what repealing the law or its major provisions would really mean. "The law gets the insurance companies off the backs of the consumers," he says. "The Republican repeal mongers want to give health care back to the insurance industry. That is what it boils down to."

Republican opponents of the health law, however, say such approaches aren't likely to succeed.

"I honestly don't think this bill will survive until 2014," says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director who is now president of the American Action Forum. "It will fall under its own fiscal weight if nothing else."

Other Republicans say the problem isn't the messages Democrats have used to try to explain the law, but the law itself.

Advocates, however, say that the benefits of the law — such as prohibitions on lifetime limits and cancellations of insurance once individuals get sick — got drowned out in a loud and nasty political season.

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