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As Lawmakers Roam Their Home Territory, Health Law Arguments Simmer

The battle over the Affordable Care Act shows absolutely no signs of abating, so it’s no surprise that the packets distributed by both parties on Capitol Hill for members heading home for the August recess paint the 2010 health care law in starkly different ways.

Photo by Karl Eisenhower/KHN

Before leaving town for the five-week-long break, House Republicans held their 40th vote to defund all or part of the measure, and supporters and opponents alike have already shown up at town hall meetings during the congressional break to let their lawmakers know how they feel about the law, dubbed Obamacare.

The packets reflect the parties’ philosophies about the law. Republicans see it as a massive job killer that will wreak havoc with the nation’s health care system. Democrats say the law will bring affordable, comprehensive health insurance to millions of Americans who don’t have it and improve coverage for those who do.

The House Republican recess packet offers an array of tips, such as have a conversation with a health care provider, tour a local hospital or clinic to get “the local, real-world detriments” of the law.  GOP members are also advised to meet with “millennials,” young people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s,  about the health law’s “ongoing and impending consequences.”

A “pocket card” given to Senate Republicans highlights the “Obamacare Sinking Ship,” citing the Obama administration’s decision to postpone for one year a requirement that most employers with 50 workers or more provide coverage or pay a fine. They also note opinion polls that show support for the law has weakened among moderate and conservative Democrats and complaints from some unions that the health law will weaken workers’ benefits packages.

Materials distributed to Democrats highlight the law’s provisions that are helping seniors save on prescription drugs and many preventive care services that now require no cost sharing.  Democrats are also urged to highlight that, starting in January, insurers can’t deny coverage of pre-existing medical conditions and to promote the law’s online marketplaces, or exchanges, that are scheduled to be up and running Oct. 1.

All the guidance in the world may not mean much, however, when lawmakers come face-to-face with the voters back home. According to a report in the Asheville, N.C., Citizen-Times, at a town hall meeting,  Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.,  got some angry questions  about why he has voted to defund or repeal the health law.  Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., admitted to a local audience, according to an account in the Columbus  (Neb.) Telegram, that some of those votes were “theatrics” that aren’t going anywhere.