Showdown As Opposing Medicare Ads Debut

A coalition of advocacy groups such as the Americans United for Change, Service Employees International Union, American Federation of State, County, the Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union and Moveon.org recently started running a series of ads telling lawmakers not to cut Medicare benefits.  In particular, the ads target Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT), Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and Senator Scott Brown (R-MA).

“If you vote to cut Medicare, Representative Rehberg, I will remember it every time I visit my doctor.  I’ll remember you cut Medicare and Medicaid every time I fill my prescription,” says an elderly woman narrator in one of the ads.  “I’ll remember you cut Medicare every time I fall or get hurt. I’ll remember you protected millionaires over protecting my health. My friends will remember it, too — all of them.  Call Senator Heller.  Tell him to protect Medicare and Medicaid.”

Brian Walsh, the National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director, made light of the Democratic message, arguing that the half-trillion dollars they shifted out of Medicare to pay for healthcare reform makes their argument hollow.  “The irony of this pathetic attack ad is that in each of these three races, it’s actually the Democrat candidates who are all firmly on record supporting the $500 billion in Medicare cuts that were included in their massive healthcare overhaul,” said Walsh.  “The big labor unions funding this ad know that, but yet they are doing everything they can to mislead voters in Montana, Nevada and Massachusetts.”

In the meantime, the United States Chamber of Commerce is running commercials attacking Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jon Tester (D-MT).  Friends of the U.S. Chamber criticize Tester for supporting “government-run healthcare” and challenges Brown on energy taxes.  The business community has been under unprecedented threat,” Rob Engstrom, part of a two-man team running the chamber’s political operation, said.  The trade group plans to break its previous political spending record — $50 million — to try to elect a more business-friendly Congress.  The Montana ad reminds viewers about Tester’s votes for “government-run healthcare” then urges voters to “call Senator Tester and tell him to stop supporting big government and start fighting for Montana’s families.”

Americans United for Change explains why it is running ads about protecting Medicare and Medicaid.  “For decades, seniors have relied on Medicare being a guaranteed benefit and those less fortunate have depended on Medicaid to provide long-term care and coverage for children.  These programs need to be strengthened to ensure they remain available for future generations, which means not gutting and decimating benefits, leaving low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities out in the cold.  The key to making Medicare sustainable is reining in costs, not dumping more expenses onto seniors.  We are working to set the right priorities for an economically secure future while continuing to protect healthcare coverage for those who can least afford it.”

Writing for the Huffington Post, Sam Stein describes the Democratic ads as “Not exactly the most visually stimulating videos, the ads warn lawmakers that they will pay a political price for cutting Medicare or Medicaid.  That may prove to be popular politics — certainly, polls show that voters want the two healthcare programs protected — but the notion that cuts won’t ultimately be pursued is highly unlikely.  Aides on the Hill from both political parties have long agreed that there is room to trim down Medicare’s provider-side components.  Reforms to Medicaid, whether in the form of decreased help to the states or something more structural, have also been discussed.”

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