Affordable Care Act, GOPocrisy — August 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Democrats can use Obamacare to remind voters that Republicans want to gut Medicare



If Republicans ran on what they actually believed, they’d lose — even in red states.

We know this for sure because a candidate who voted to privatize Medicare and Social Security is attacking his opponent for wanting to reform Medicare and Social Security.

Just as we learned that Obamacare is fading as an issue in the 2014 elections, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton released an ad that targets Democrat Mark Pryor’s support for Social Security and Medicare reforms. The ad rips quotes out of context and ties in Pryor’s votes for cuts to Medicare and Medicare Advantage in Obamacare.

Cotton is rehashing the GOP’s successful 2010 Mediscare campaign but in 2014 there are three key differences:

1. Cotton voted for the same cuts to Medicare in Paul Ryan’s budget;
2. Cotton voted for Ryan’s evolving plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system;
3. Obamacare is now in full effect and has cut Arkansas’ uninsured rate by 10 percentage points.

Even as he’s pretending to be a defender of the safety net, Cotton is still vowing to repeal Obamacare while refusing to say what will happen to the more than 192,000 people in his state who have gained coverage through Medicaid expansion.

The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent points out why his stand is some problematic horseshit:

So, we’re going to repeal Obamacare and “start over,” but we’ll make sure “some” of those who are benefiting from it will continue to do so, and you know, maybe we’ll just “reform” the state’s Medicaid expansion. By the way, thanks in part to that private option, no state in the country has shown a steeper drop in the rate of uninsured than Arkansas has. Cotton wants to have it both ways: He needs to be for Obamacare repeal, but he also has to fudge madly on the question of whether he would take its benefits away from people. But there’s no getting around it: Repeal of Obamacare means repealing the state’s Medicaid expansion and the law’s benefits for the newly insured.

Pryor — like Alison Lundergan Grimes who is running against Mitch McConnell for his Kentucky U.S Senate seat  — has been reluctant to embrace the law, even though Arkansas and Kentucky are number one and two in reducing their state’s uninsured population.

That trend seemed to change on Wednesday, Sargent reports, as Pryor embraced Obamacare in ad without speaking the law’s name. Grimes promised to defend the 500,000 Kentuckians who can now visit a doctor thanks to the law.

Republicans are stuck on repeal, which is only backed by about 40 percent of voters, because the people who support getting rid of Affordable Care Act entirely are Republican Primary voters. Since the law isn’t popular, it’s a safe stand to take in an off-year election. But it’s not swaying many voters.

Obamacare is an issue that will be fought to a draw, over and over again. So most candidates would rather leave it alone rather than inflaming their opponents’ base. But in in Arkansas and Kentucky, there is a unique case to be made.

McConnell and Cotton are promising to increase their state’s uninsured population by more than 40 percent. While unpopularity of Obama and Obamacare in these states make it risky to champion the law, especially by name. It can help make a larger case that Republicans are willing to take health insurance away from their states’ most vulnerable workers. Thus, they’d be willing to take away the Medicare seniors rely upon.

Medicare and Social Security remain hotly contested issues that threaten to jeopardize the GOP’s advantage with older voters, which somehow persists even after the greatest swindle since the Iraq War. Republicans won in 2010 by battering Democrats for cutting Medicare and then immediately introduced a plan that would gut Medicare and pass billions in costs on to seniors.

Cotton voted for Paul Ryan’s first budget, which would have completely privatized Medicare and Social Security, and all the sequels. Ryan’s latest budget leaves a traditional Medicare as a public option as it turns the retirement system for Americans 56 and older into something that resembles Obamacare while repealing Obamacare.

Ryan’s Medicare plan would raise the retirement age to 67 and could lead to unraveling of Medicare for future and current beneficiaries while producing “little budgetary savings,” according to Paul N. Van de Water at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It also immediately cuts benefits for current Medicare recipients while raising prices on prescription drugs.

The right wants to break Medicare for a simple reason — it works. And thanks to Obamacare, trillions in projected costs have been cut and more than a decade of life has been added to the life of the program.

Reforms are needed to keep traditional Medicare in place. But raising the retirement age would offer almost no savings compared to changing how we negotiate for prescription drugs. You could also add decades of solvency to Medicare by ending tax breaks on investment income for the rich.

These are the things you’d do if you actually wanted to defend the safety net and weren’t just pretending you did to win an election.

Whoever wins the battle of perceptions over Medicare will win the loyalty of the most consistent voters in the nation. And that Democrats, who created and preserved the program for nearly 50 years, need to tie their legacy of defending the program against Republican attacks to impressive gains made by the Affordable Care Act.

[Photo by Anne Savage.]