Politicians Celebrate Medicare’s 48th Anniversary With Attack Ads


lyndon medicare

Today is the 48th anniversary of Medicare, and political candidates on both sides of the aisle have launched ads accusing each other of failing to adequately support the program.

Though Republicans opposed its creation in 1965, sought deep cuts to ensure that it “wither on the vine” in 1990s, and now support a dramatic restructuring that would substantially privatize Medicare, the National Republican Congressional Committee is out with ads criticizing Democrats for cutting $716 billion from the program.

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s (D-AZ) “vote against the Republican balanced budget isn’t the only vote that hurt Medicare recipients,” says an NRCC release first published in Politico’s Morning Score. “Kirkpatrick has also opposed fully repealing ObamaCare, which gutted Medicare by $716 billion.” Similar ads will target Reps. Ron Barber (D-AZ), Scott Peters (D-CA), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and others.

The attack is peculiar, since the so-called “balanced budget” offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) maintains the very same $716 billion that Democrats included in the Affordable Care Act. As page 40 of Ryan’s budget says, “The budget calls for directing any potential Medicare savings in current law toward shoring up Medicare, not paying for new entitlements.”

Ryan argues that the health law inappropriately redirects savings from Medicare to fund coverage for the nation’s uninsured and promises to use those savings to strengthen the program. But the Congressional Budget Office doesn’t see it that way. It notes that the GOP’s “premium support” proposal — under which future retirees will have a choice of traditional Medicare or private insurance and will receive a pre-determined government voucher with which to purchase coverage — would not keep up with health care costs and actually increase premiums for seniors. Medicare beneficiaries are already benefiting from other provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced on Monday, and could lose those benefits if the law is fully repealed. 16.5 million seniors have received preventive benefits without deductibles or co-pays as a result of the law and saved more than $7 billion on prescription drugs.

Separately, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will run ads targeting 70 House Republicans, claiming that their votes for Ryan’s budget would effectively end the existing Medicare program. Health policy experts worry that overtime, the budget blueprint will cause “traditional Medicare would become less financially viable and could unravel.”