Republicans, White House Work To Counter Democratic Criticism of Medicare Prescription Drug Cards
In an effort to put a positive spin on the new Medicare law, HHS since January has been issuing "Medicare Issue of the Day" talking point memos that are designed to help explain the legislation to "anyone who might be interested in the issue," CongressDaily reports. The e-mail memos, which go to Capitol Hill staff members, lobbyists and others, feature subtitles such as "Better Benefits -- More Choices," "Good News About the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003!" and "Establishment of an Advisory Group on Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act Responsibilities." Democrats say that in light of the memos and other such promotional activities, Republicans should lessen their criticism of Democratic efforts against the new law, CongressDaily reports. At a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday, committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that Democrats are scaring beneficiaries away from signing up for the new prescription drug discount card program. CMS Administrator Mark McClellan pointed specifically to a Families USA video featuring former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite. But Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said that his group has "encouraged low-income seniors to sign up [for the drug card program] every place we go," adding that the Bush administration has done more to dissuade low-income seniors from enrolling by declining to expand automatic enrollment. Following the hearing, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said, "The seniors are so frustrated, so angered and so disappointed by this that it doesn't take any coordination by Democrats." Dan Maffei, communications director for Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, said, "What [Republicans are] doing isn't press relations, it's advertising." But an unnamed GOP aide said that there is a difference between the "good news" messages from Republicans and Democratic efforts to discredit the drug card program (Rovner, CongressDaily, 6/9).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.