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.

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has come under attack by the Trump Administration, is has become more and more popular. 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. Our goal must be to get you—and everyone else—the health care you need, when you need it, at a price you can afford. The [conservative proposal] would hand our healthcare system back 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. For the security and health of your family and mine, we cannot allow it.

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 conservative 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 this right-wing legislation 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: the right-wing plan 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.

Use similar tactics for proactive progressive legislation designed to strengthen the healthcare system. For example:

Say . . .
For decades, our healthcare system has been overpriced and unfair. Our goal must be to get you—and everyone else—the health care you need, when you need it, at a price you can afford. One crucial step is to minimize uncompensated care. That’s when uninsured people get healthcare in the most expensive way, at hospital emergency rooms, and then that cost is added onto our insurance premiums. Getting them covered saves you money.

Prescription drugs

Until the Trump Administration started attacking the Affordable Care Act, 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. In fact, 90 percent of Americans believe it is an “important” or “top priority” to pass “legislation to bring down the price of prescription drugs.”

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 [create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to ensure that drug costs aren’t unfairly high]. 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.


Tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco are the leading cause of preventable death in the US despite decades of public education. And, in reaction to smoking regulations, the tobacco industry is producing and promoting new e-cigarette products that come in flavors that are attractive to young people. The public health consequences of tobacco disproportionately affect low-income Americans, communities of color, and people in the military—all of whom have long been proactively targeted by the industry.

Don’t say . . . Say . . .
Smokers’ freedom

Smoker’s rights

Smoke-free, secondhand smoke

Protect everyone’s health, prevent diseases such as cancer

Protect the environment

Protect children, protect nonsmokers

Expand opportunities for people to quit smoking (or vaping)

Why . . .

Even people who smoke don’t believe anyone has the freedom or right to hurt others. In fact, the majority of people who smoke want to try to quit. 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 smoking/vaping-related political debate is about raising the tax on these products.

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 negative health effects of e-cigarettes, or vaping, is still being studied but, given what we know about the tobacco industry, we shouldn’t take their word for it when it comes to safety. The most proven, effective way to protect our children is to raise the taxes on these products. 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 and expensive. I would certainly support programs to help them stop smoking.  We should also make sure everyone has the right to breathe clean air and not have their own health damaged. These laws do not stop anyone from smoking; they simply stop some of the harms that smoking inflicts on others.