Larry Mantle

Luntz' "Government Takeover"

Political consultant Frank Luntz talked this morning about how he uses focus groups to come up with the terms many Republican politicians use in policy debates. Luntz coined "death tax," among many other favorite GOP expressions. His most recent influence can be seen in his 26-page memo to Republican members of Congress that urges usage of the term "government takeover" to describe a public health insurance option. Luntz argues that most Americans want healthcare coverage made more widely available and for pre-existing conditions to be covered, but that they're also concerned about losing the level of coverage they have.

President Obama clearly considers this to be true, as he frequently reassures folks that those currently covered by health insurance will be able to continue with what they have. However, many Republicans say a proposed public plan would put private insurers out of business and leave everyone with only the public option. That's the intersection between what Luntz is hearing in focus groups and what GOP members of Congress are trying to articulate in fighting the highest priority of a popular President.

What's unclear is how this Republican opposition will translate into legislation. Democrats have the numbers and, one assumes, will eventually compromise among themselves on some sort of a plan. Will it include a public option? How will it be funded? How many uninsured will end up covered? How will healthcare costs be affected? These are the most important questions yet to be answered. I'm looking forward to talking about them.

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