Democrats, Republicans Launch Campaigns To Promote Positions on New Medicare Law
With many surveys showing that the public has mixed feelings toward the new Medicare law (HR 1), supporters and critics of the legislation are undertaking "aggressive" campaigns to sway the public toward their point of view and claim the issue as their own, the Washington Post reports. One month after President Bush signed the law, top administration health officials are planning an "advertising blitz" and speaking tours to promote the legislation, according to the Post. Bill Pierce, a spokesperson for HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, said the department is organizing "a robust campaign ... the goal being to cut through the rhetoric with what we view as straight facts and straight answers." HHS has begun mailing letters and brochures about the new law to beneficiaries, and Thompson and other senior officials will begin a speaking tour with congressional Republicans. The House Republican Conference is planning to poll the public weekly to measure the impact of its efforts. Various Republicans, including Reps. Phil Gingrey (Ga.) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), have been attending community forums and town hall meetings on the new bill. Meanwhile, Democrats like Rep. Benjamin Cardin (Md.) are holding educational meetings on the new law in their districts, and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is holding town meetings across the country with other congressional Democrats. Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, "The party that wins the battle to define what was enabled will garner substantial political benefits. Democrats may begin with an advantage. That means the White House will redouble its efforts at salesmanship." Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute, added, "There's a whole lot of political cross-dressing here. It appears that the Republicans have stolen the Democrats' bacon." Several groups also are working to get their views out, with the MoveOn.org Voter Fund spending $1.2 million on television advertising in four battleground election states and Families USA producing a video for senior centers. Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said that the group's video will "create a groundswell of people saying, 'This needs to be changed'" (Goldstein, Washington Post, 1/11).
In the Democratic Party's response to Bush's weekly radio address on Saturday, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) criticized the Medicare law and said that "President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress missed a golden opportunity" to help lower the cost of prescription drugs in the United States, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Instead of fulfilling a promise to help lower the cost of prescription drugs, Bush enacted a bill with large gaps in Medicare prescription drug coverage and high out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries, Doyle said. He added, "States like Wisconsin have enacted prescription drug benefits that are more generous than the Medicare bill, and these programs may be put in danger by the new law." Because of the new Medicare law, the nation's governors will have to continue to advocate allowing U.S. residents to purchase medications from Canada and other nations, where they are often cheaper, Doyle said (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/10).
C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Monday aired the first three segments in a seven-part series on aspects of the new Medicare law, including the prescription drug benefit, drug discount cards, a provision allowing the creation of health savings accounts for individuals and a provision calling for a pilot project that would test competition among private health plans and traditional, fee-for-service Medicare in six areas of the country. Guests on the program included John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis; Patrick Morrisey, deputy staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Tricia Neuman, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of its Medicare Policy Project ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 1/12). Complete video of the segments will be available online after the broadcast.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.