Political Victory on Medicare Law Eludes Republicans, Washington Post Reports
Although Republican leaders had hoped to tout their efforts in passing the Medicare legislation in this year's election, "the political bounce that [they] had hoped for is eluding them," as criticism of the new law mounts and the public expresses skepticism about changes to the program, the Washington Post reports. A number of controversies over the new law have emerged in recent months, including an investigation by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct into the House vote on the legislation, a General Accounting Office probe into the Bush administration's $9.5 million advertising campaign for the law and some lawmakers' concern that the law will cost $534 billion over the next decade, according to the Office of Management and Budget -- $134 billion more than previously estimated by the Congressional Budget Office. "There is buyer's remorse among many who voted for [the law]," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said, "Republicans thought they were going to get a big political bang. They've got a dud. Unless they turn perceptions around, they've got an anchor around their neck." At the same time, the public's reaction to the law, which was expected to help make Medicare a Republican victory for this year's election, has been "tepid." A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 32% of seniors who knew about the law said they viewed it favorably, and a Washington Post/ABC News poll in January said 53% of people trusted Democrats to do a better job handling Medicare than Republicans. Such reaction has "delighted Democrats," who are focusing their efforts on "trying to undercut the GOP's credibility on the issue," according to the Post. Both Democrats and Republicans are drafting legislation designed to make significant changes to the law, including controlling spending and addressing prescription drug prices. But Bush and Republican leaders are urging lawmakers not to revise the Medicare law this year and instead, "wor[k] together to implement [the] changes," according to White House press secretary Scott McClellan. He said, "The Medicare issue is a prime example of how some in Washington are so wrapped up in how to use the issue for partisan gain and so concerned about who gets the credit that doing what is best for our seniors gets lost. The president believes strongly (the law) was the right thing for our seniors" (Goldstein/Dewar, Washington Post, 2/29).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.