The House GOP’s Obamacare replacement asks the American people to make some pretty unpopular trade-offs: The bill would essentially finance a large tax cut on the rich by cutting health benefits for the poor and working class.
It would also reduce health-care subsidies for working families — while giving insurance companies a tax break to incentivize higher CEO pay.
At first glance, this might seem like it presents a messaging problem for the Republican Party. After all, the GOP’s argument against Obamacare has never been that it unfairly limits the compensation of insurance executives, while redistributing too much income from the very wealthiest to the poor.
Rather, their argument was that Obamacare left too many uninsured, while producing unaffordable deductibles and premiums — all problems that their own bill would (almost certainly) make worse.
But Paul Ryan need not fear: Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz has found the perfect message to push the American Health Care Act across the finish line: This bill provides Americans with access to choice — specifically, the choice between buying a new smartphone and paying their medical bills.
In an interview with CNN’s New Day, Chaffetz explained that the GOP’s new bill would guarantee “access” to health insurance for all Americans. Of course, all Americans enjoy “access” to their nearest Mercedes-Benz dealership — but few can afford to buy their wares.
After this was pointed out to the congressman, he replied, “You know what, Americans have choices … So maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love — and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on — maybe they invest it in their own health care. They’ve gotta make those decisions themselves.”
This is a winning message: If there’s one thing Americans resent about Obamacare, it’s that the law made it too easy to afford both health care and an iPhone. Low-income Americans want to live less materialistic lives, but lack the self-control to do so. Now, they will finally be forced to enjoy the austerity they’ve always dreamed of.
Granted, Barack Obama once deployed a similar message about the need for Americans to prioritize health care above consumer spending — and that wasn’t enough to make his signature law popular (at least, not while he was in office).
But the problem with Obama’s statement is that it wasn’t paired with action. Sure, he suggested Americans make hard choices on household spending — but he didn’t force them to do so, by cutting the subsidies that they had been depending on.
Chaffetz’s message, by contrast, reflects the spirit of his bill. And it’s concise enough to fit onto a bumper sticker: If you love your iPhone, you can’t keep it.