July | August 2017


HOT TOPIC » The Language of Reform

by Mary Branham

3 Things Americans Want in Health Reform

Political pollster Frank Luntz’s surveys tell him Americans want three things in health reform, “nothing more and nothing less.”
1 “They want to ensure that they will have coverage regardless of their health condition.”
2 “They want to ensure that once they get health care they’ll be able to keep it.”
3 “They want some control over costs.”


Political pollster Dr. Frank Luntz doesn’t practice medicine, but when it comes to the public perception of health reform, he’s got a powerful diagnosis.
“(Health care reform) has to be good for people in cities, suburbs and rural areas. It has to be good from Maine to California,” Luntz, who holds a doctorate in politics from Oxford University, said. “It has to work for conservatives and for liberals.”
The fact that public support for the reform efforts in Congress had plummeted to 36 percent by mid-December, according to a CNN poll, can be attributed to the way Democrats in Congress have handled the debate, he said.
“It actually has less support than Bill Clinton’s reform effort back in 93–94,” said Luntz, a top Republican consultant on the language of politics and author of What Americans Really Want...Really and Words that Work.
Luntz traces the falling support to one word: takeover.
“The American people don’t want a government takeover of their health care,” he said. “They want to keep it individualized, personalized and humanized.”
In fact, those three words are key to Luntz’s first rule in a list of suggestions for the GOP’s “Language of Healthcare 2009” as detailed by Politico.com.
Democrats, he said, have made a case that change is needed, but have failed to make the case that it’s their change that’s needed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi focuses on control, choice and accountability in her speeches and press conferences, Luntz said.
“Those are the three attributes Americans want, but they don’t believe the language matches the policy,” he said.
While Democrats promised a bipartisan approach to health care reform, Luntz said the fact that it hasn’t happened is a big mistake. To make this type of fundamental change, he said, policymakers must transcend politics, ideology, demographics and geography.
But Republicans also walk a fine line in the debate, Luntz said.
“Make no mistake, Americans want health care reform and if Republicans are seen as blocking it for the sake of blocking it they’ll be punished,” he said. “The Democrats need to understand that Americans don’t want this huge bureaucratic Washington-centered program.”
Luntz to Speak at CSG’s Economic Summit
Political pollster Frank Luntz will speak May 22 in New York City during
The Council of State Governments’ Economic Summit of the States.