11. Health

Begin in agreement, for example: For decades, our healthcare system has been overpriced and unfair.

Our values: Health, health security, safety, protection, quality of life

Our vision: Every American should be able to get the health care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford. But for years, insurance companies charged too much, their policies were full of holes, and coverage was easily denied or revoked. The Affordable Care Act changed that, providing families with a new and greater measure of health security. Now that the ACA is under attack, there is much to be done: (1) guarantee coverage to every American as a matter of right; (2) encourage healthy behavior and protect others from unhealthy behaviors; and (3) allow people to make their own health care choices.

Affordable Care Act/American Health Care Act

As this book was published, there was no resolution of the debate between the merits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) versus the American Health Care Act (AHCA). One thing is certain, however: persuadable voters do not want to lose their health insurance coverage or any guarantee of coverage, pay more in premiums or deductibles, or see a cut in government funding for their health care programs.

The key to persuasion is to focus on what they will or may lose.

Say . . .
For decades, our healthcare system has been overpriced and unfair. It would be much worse under the new plan. That bill in Congress will hurt you and your family—even if you get insurance through your employer—by handing the system over to the big insurance companies, allowing them to deny coverage for essential medical care, jack up premiums for women and older Americans, and make insurance completely unaffordable for anyone with a wide range of preexisting conditions.

Why . . .

You must personalize the debate. You are welcome to say that millions of Americans will lose health insurance, but don’t reference Medicaid. The fact is, few persuadable voters think their own insurance is actually at stake. But it is! Focus on the aspects of the GOP bill that directly or indirectly affect families that get health insurance through an employer. Emphasize over and over that each and every one of their families will likely be harmed if this proposal is enacted. Here’s another version.

Say . . .
Protect your own health. Don’t let TrumpCare put insurance companies back in control of your health care, allowing them to deny you coverage for essential medical care, jack prices way up if you have a preexisting condition, and charge you unfairly high prices if you are in your 50s or 60s, or you’re a woman, or simply because you happen to live in an unprofitable state. You must understand: TrumpCare will devastate health care for everyone, including people who get insurance through their jobs.

Why . . .

As we emphasize throughout this book, persuadable voters want to know how the policy affects themselves, their families, and their friends. Tell them!

Don’t say . . . Say . . .

The poor, people in poverty

Give health insurance

You and your family

Hardworking Americans

Families, children, people with disabilities

Don’t deny the security of health care

Why . . .

When the conversation turns to the uninsured, avoid language about poverty because it evokes negative ideas about welfare. Use the terms hardworking, families, children, and people with disabilities because these suggest the recipients need and deserve basic medical coverage. And as we have explained elsewhere, it’s more effective to say don’t deny them the security instead of give them the security.

Prescription drugs

Just before the 2016 election, Americans said their top health care policy priority was to lower prescription drug prices, especially high-cost drugs for chronic conditions like HIV, hepatitis, mental illness and cancer. Three-quarters of the public believe that the prices of brand-name drugs are unreasonable. On the state level, there is overwhelming support for legislation that addresses the rising cost of prescription drugs, so it’s easy to start from a point of agreement.

Say . . .
Prescription drug prices are skyrocketing. To protect our health, all of our families need access to medicines that are affordable. No one should ever have to choose between buying medicine or paying their rent. A new proposal in our state legislature would [require price transparency for drug companies and empower the state Attorney General to stop price gouging]. The bill helps all of us, and for someone you know, it may actually be a matter of life and death.

Why . . .

You are welcome to cite facts and figures, and there are a lot of them on this topic. But average Americans are already convinced of the need, you just have to connect their preexisting beliefs about prescription drug prices to specific legislation that requires their support.


Despite decades of education, smoking continues to be a tremendous public health problem in the United States.

Don’t say . . . Say . . .
Smokers’ freedom or rights Smoke-free, secondhand smoke

Health, disease, cancer, clean air

Protect children, protect nonsmokers

Why . . .

People don’t have the freedom or right to hurt others. There are a number of phrases that work for tobacco control, listed above. On the state and local levels, most of the debate revolves around two health policies. First, smoke-free workplaces:

Say . . .
We have a responsibility to protect the public health, especially when it comes to children. Years of research have clearly shown that secondhand smoke is dangerous and cancerous. Doctors and scientists have concluded that the only way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is to require smoke-free workplaces. That’s what we should do to defend everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

Why . . .

Americans overwhelmingly believe that secondhand smoke is harmful. They are concerned about their own health, and it is persuasive to talk about children’s health. Less than 20 percent of voters smoke and even a good percentage of them support smoke-free laws.

The other common tobacco-related political debate is about raising the tobacco tax.

Say . . .
As adults, we have a responsibility to protect children from harm. Sadly, one-third of kids who smoke cigarettes will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses. The most proven, effective way to protect those children is to raise the tobacco tax. Studies show that when the tax goes up, teen smoking goes down. It’s a small price to pay to protect the health of our children.

Why . . .

For voters, deemphasize tax revenues and focus on health benefits. Legislators are interested in what they can do with the tax dollars but that’s not a strong argument to persuadable voters.

Right wing argument: Secondhand smoke is not a health hazard.

Say . . .
We need to protect our health. The Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Surgeon General, and all the other important health organizations unanimously agree that smoke is just as dangerous to another person exposed to it as it is to the smoker. Children are the ones most often affected. The American Lung Association estimates that, in the U.S., secondhand smoke causes more than 40,000 deaths per year.

Right wing argument: Anti-tobacco laws infringe on a person’s right to smoke.

Say . . .
I feel for smokers, tobacco is extremely addictive. I would certainly support programs to help them. But everyone has the right to breathe clean air and to avoid damaging their own health. These laws do not stop anyone from smoking; they simply stop some of the harms that smoking inflicts on others.