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Why the House of Representatives Failed to Pass the American Health Care Act

Why the House of Representatives Failed to Pass the American Health Care Act

Passing the AHCA would have overturned the status quo, ObamaCare, just as ObamaCare overturned the prior status quo, healthcare is an individual, not a government, responsibility. 

Tim Riesterer, instructor in the art of corporate storytelling, in his storytelling framework, explains that human beings have an innate bias to maintaining the status quo.

There is a good reason for this. It is called fear.  We are hard-wired to avoid danger.

We think the status quo protects us against danger in 4 ways.

1.     We prefer stability and see change as a threat to that stability.

2.     We believe the status quo is free and that there is a cost to change.  We generally like to avoid higher costs.

3.     Information overload. Too much information makes selection difficult. Staying with the status quo is easier than sorting through all of the options.

4.     We don’t change because we anticipate we will regret our decision to give up on the status quo.  We project that what we talked our colleagues in to won’t be as successful as we led them to believe it would be.

We can eliminate status quo bias in 4 ways.

1.     Weaken the status quo preference by introducing hidden challenges that make the status quo a less safe (more dangerous) course

2.     Showing the cost of inaction. Unfortunately, we tend to make decisions more often to avoid loss than to realize a gain.

3.     Contrast the status quo with the benefits of taking action to solve a problem. Paint side-by-side pictures of the current situation and the new and improved situation in order to make the case for change.

4.     Personalize the need for change.

Back to the AHCA, the Republicans who favored the proposed law failed to show that the real health care danger was not in changing the law but in not changing it.

 The GOP also failed to speak directly to the voters who were motivating the proposal’s opponents, by failing to personalize that the status quo ObamaCare would be more expensive to voters than the new American Health Care Act.

The Republican policy wonks also overwhelmed voters with statistical information, focusing on billions and trillions of federal dollars rather than thousands of dollars in personal health care outlays. Congressmen who favored the AHCA failed to convince their colleagues that failing to vote for the new healthcare bill was a vote for the status quo, which was the vote that would fraught with regret.

Republicans could have turned the situation around by undermining their colleagues’ apparent preference for the status quo. They could have accomplished this by projecting the future anger of their constituents when they saw their premiums continue to skyrocket and their health care choices dwindle.

The AHCA’s supporters should have focused their messaging like a LASER on the personal costs of not changing to the proposed new law and less on the legislative and policy nuances of the changes.

The bill’s supporters lead by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, should have driven home the personal cost issue with a side-by-side comparison of a family’s cost under ObamaCare and under the proposed AHCA. They should have learned the effectiveness of visual imagery from the Democrats’ “Paul Ryan wants to push Granny off the cliff” video ad attacking the then Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

In the scare-tactic video, a man who appears to be Paul Ryan pushes an elderly woman in a wheelchair over a cliff in order to make the Democrats’ point that election of Republican Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan would result in the death of senior citizens who are dependent on Medicare for healthcare. Ryan blamed the Granny ads for turning the country against him thus clearing the way for the election of Barack Obama, the father of ObamaCare.

Again, the ACHA supporters should have spent more time and money personalizing the advantages of change and the dangers of the status quo, by putting a face on the health care debate rather than building the messaging around dry policy issues most voters don’t pay attention to. This is something President Obama himself recognized when he trotted out little Marcelas Owens front and center at the signing ceremony for the ObamaCare legislation in March 2010.