Skip to comments.Republicans get over 'Mediscare'
Posted on 11/30/2003 7:52:59 AM PST by RJCogburn
Is ''Mediscare'' dead?
The term was coined by Republicans who angrily believe Democrats have tried to frighten seniors into thinking that GOP lawmakers have only slightly more use for Medicare than they would for something they might scrape off their shoes.
But Republicans are now confident that enacting a new and long-sought prescription drug benefit under the government-run Medicare health insurance program for seniors will make them close to bulletproof during the 2004 presidential and congressional elections.
''It is an advantage,'' said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), ''because we were able to accomplish what Democrats have talked about for a long time.''
Democrats believe the bill is nothing less than an attempt to undermine Medicare. A new scare campaign is exactly what many Democrats have in mind.
''We're going to fight it next year. We're going to fight it in the congressional elections, and we're going to fight it in the presidential elections,'' vowed Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
But fighting over Medicare with 30-second campaign sound bites is difficult because the issue is so complex. Finding broad themes that resonate with voters is crucial.
''Who is the best salesman? Who makes the case to seniors better?'' asked Amy Walter, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
She cautioned that the importance of Medicare as an issue would depend largely on what weighs most heavily on voters' minds and whether Iraq and the economy dominate the scene.
Republican pollster David Winston said health care is almost always a key issue to at least some voters, and the Medicare passage could help the GOP eat into the Democrats' usual advantage on health care.
But Carroll Doherty of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press said voters tend to view Medicare as a retirement issue, not a health care one.
Doherty and Winston agree the political impact of the bill may have less to do with the issue than with making the GOP look effective.
''The bottom line is that more seniors will have access to prescription drugs and those drugs will be more affordable. The American people were looking for progress ... and that's genuine progress,'' Winston said.
Doherty said, ''The Republicans have delivered on a huge issue.''
In heralding passage of the Medicare bill, President Bush made clear that he believed he was on the verge of putting a dependable Democratic boogeyman to rest.
''Year after year, the problems in the Medicare system were studied and debated. And yet, nothing was done. As a matter of fact, they used to call Medicare 'Mediscare' for people in the political process. Some said Medicare reform could never be done,'' Bush said in Las Vegas. ''For the sake of our seniors, we've gotten something done. We're acting.''
Democrats are hoping the aura of accomplishment will tarnish as people absorb details of the bill.
They point out that the primary benefit does not take effect until 2006. They also note that it is far less generous, except for low-income seniors and those with high drug costs, than many seniors had hoped. Democrats say reform measures in the bill are just the first step toward privatizing Medicare, a term that worries many recipients.
The ultimate Democratic aim is to create a backlash along the lines of what happened with a so-called catastrophic health plan passed by Congress in 1988. Seniors disliked the mandatory premiums associated with that plan so much that Congress was forced to repeal the law less than a year later.
''We have to see if members are going home and being beat over the head with this,'' said Walter. ''I think it could be a problem. Seniors want something, and they want it now. What are they going to say when they see they won't get much and they won't get that until 2006?''
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who opposed the bill because of its cost, said he fears the worst.
''It is obviously bad policy, but it is bad politics, as well,'' he said. ''When seniors understand how cumbersome this thing is, they will be very disappointed. And they will blame those who passed it.''
Flake and other GOP conservatives also raised another concern: How would Republican gloating about a huge expansion of a government entitlement go over with the conservative base?
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who turned down personal appeals from Bush to support the bill, said, ''It will be very troubling to the Republican base. Our voters sent us here to be different.''
Only in Bushbotland would Repubs think that's a good thing.
I wonder if Frist realized how that would look in print at the time he made the statement. That's a world-class slip...
During the 2000 campaign for POTUS, Bush`s original pricetag for reforming and modernizing Medicare, along with adding a limited, but market driven prescription drug component, was $158 billion. Today that 10-year cost has risen to over $400 and will probably double or triple before the time frame has run out.
I'm afraid the Congressional GOP and PresBush has created another layer onto the federal bureaucracy that is nothing more then a boondoggle and a waste of the taxpayers money.
Higher payroll taxes for my generation later on down the road, less discretionary spending ablility within a decade, more illegal immigration as more people attempt to enter the US to take advantage of this new benefit, and (forgive me for sounding like a paranoid kook) but possibly the first steps for nationalized medicine.
Well, you know what happens when some folks get a taste of other people's money.
Yes, my parents and grandparents certainly helped me. It is an obligation based on my respect and love.
Btw, it was they who helped me, not the government by way of them and my obligation is the same. The government is not part of my obligatory equation.