Opposition to Medicare Overhaul Helps Decide N.Y. Special Election
On Tuesday, Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election in New York's most conservative congressional district, largely because of her opponent's support for a GOP plan to overhaul Medicare, the AP/Washington Post reports.
The election is being viewed by many as a referendum on the GOP's proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program and a warning from seniors that Republicans should avoid making cuts to popular entitlement programs.
Hochul captured 47% of the vote in New York's 26th Congressional District, Republican state Assembly member Jane Corwin garnered 43% and tea party candidate Jack Davis secured 9% (AP/Washington Post, 5/25).
The Medicare proposal -- a centerpiece of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget blueprint -- would give beneficiaries fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance. It is part of the House-approved GOP fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34) (California Healthline, 5/23).
Details of Election
Two months ago, Hochul was expected to lose the race for a seat vacated by Rep. Christopher Lee (R). However, Corwin's embrace of the Medicare plan provided Hochul a new opportunity to criticize the Republican (Hernandez, New York Times, 5/24). Hochul pledged in various television ads to help protect Medicare from the GOP plan, a stance which resonated with a large population of voters in the district older than age 55.
Hochul said in a speech following the election, "We cannot balance our budget on the backs of our seniors." She said, "How about ending big handouts for Big Oil?" adding, "How about making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share?" According to Hochul, "We can do all that and not decimate Medicare" (AP/Washington Post, 5/25).
Reactions to Election
Some Republicans said those attributing the outcome of the election solely to Medicare are oversimplifying the matter, the New York Times reports. They also argued that Corwin was less appealing than Hochul, who they said ran a better campaign. In addition, they noted that tea party candidate Davis drew conservative votes away from Corwin and also attacked her aggressively in the days leading up to the vote (New York Times, 5/24).
However, many maintain that the election was mostly about the Medicare plan. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said, "The three reasons a Democrat was elected to Congress in the district were Medicare, Medicare and Medicare" (AP/Washington Post, 5/25). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the election "sends a clear message that will echo nationwide: Republicans will be held accountable for their vote to end Medicare."
In addition, interviews at polling places suggested that the election was dominated in its final weeks by concerns over the Medicare proposal (Isenstadt, Politico, 5/24).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.