Are you running against Obamacare or for turning Medicare into Obamacare?
History may remember April 1, 2014 as the day that Obamacare’s health exchange enrollment number passed 7 million. But if Democrats are wise, they’ll make sure voters remember it as the day Paul Ryan released his latest budget proposal.
Again, with slight variations, the congressman from Wisconsin proposes to let Medicare wither on the vine for a decade as he transitions America’s best health care promise to seniors into a system where private insurers are subsidized to cover Americans 55 and under as they retire. This “premium support” model resembles Obamacare far more than the Medicare most Americans love. It also includes a “traditional Medicare” option where seniors can purchase coverage similar to today’s Medicare but for higher prices.
Ryan’s budget also includes the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that Republicans have been running against for four years now, while cutting the improvements Obamacare makes to Medicare including free preventative care and financial support to buy prescription medication.
These budgets have made Ryan a superstar with the GOP donor base but even Republicans prefer Medicare as we know it to his plan.
Introducing this budget now, when Republicans still have an advantage on health care, is as big an unforced error as Mitt Romney selecting Ryan as his running mate. After vowing he wouldn’t take Medicare from his own mother and being booed by AARP, Ryan was mostly hidden for the last few weeks of the 2012 campaign.
While Obamacare is still unpopular, so is repeal, which is as unpopular as Ryan’s Medicare plan. The congressman has given Democrats the ability to tie these two issues together and go on the attack, as Paul Begala suggests.
“My opponent wants to repeal your rights and the promise America has made to its seniors through Medicare,” they could say.
Not every Republican on the ballot will have or will vote for Ryan’s plan — but this budget gives away the plot again: Republicans are going after Medicare and every office they win will help them do this.
The Republican base is invigorated to go after Obamacare. Ryan’s budget gives Democrats the chance to get motivated to defend one of the greatest things our government has ever achieved — Medicare. It also gives the left a chance to muddy the waters by pointing out the similarities in Ryan’s plan to the thing they despise the most — Obamacare.
This may not make health insurance reform a winner for Democrats but it definitely makes it possible to fight this issue to a draw and then compete on the minimum wage, help for the unemployed, and infrastructure — issues where Democrats have huge advantages.
Remember: Paul Ryan hates Obamacare so much that he ran for vice-president with the guy who created it and he wants to turn Medicare into it.
Inspiring Democrats and disillusioning Republicans. That’s Paul Ryan’s gift to America.
[Photo by Anne Savage.]