J. Taylor Rushing reports at The Hill that “Senate Democrats plan on using recess to win back seniors.” It’s an understandable strategy, given both the high proportion of mid term voters who are over 60 (29 percent in 2006) and lingering skepticism among seniors about the Democratic health care reforms. Rushing explains:
…Senate Democratic leaders want members to hold town hall forums at senior centers to promote how the recent Wall Street reform bill “will protect seniors from predatory lending programs and safeguard their retirement savings,” and to spread the word that the healthcare bill is bringing immediate benefits.
“Health insurance reform, particularly as it relates to seniors, is one of the most important things for senators to discuss when they are home for recess,” reads a packet distributed to Democratic members. “In order to get the message out ahead of talk of health reform repeal, senators should talk with seniors about the benefits they are going to see immediately and those they will be seeing over the coming months and years.”
…Elderly voters have been the most skeptical group on the healthcare reform bill. A Kaiser Foundation poll discovered that the 65-and-older age group was the most sizable age group that believes they will be “worse off” with the bill. Forty-seven percent of seniors gave that answer, compared with only 28 percent of respondents below 65 years old. The same poll found that 56 percent of the 65-plus age group was unfamiliar with the bill and its benefits.
Dems will be reminding seniors that ‘donut hole’ payments will be mailed to seniors beginning in June, to help offset a ‘medicine reimbursement gap’ many seniors are expecting. “…$250 rebate checks are on the way to cover medication expenses, and a 50 percent drug discount starts next year.” In addition, co-payments for preventive care procedures, including check-ups and mamograms will be eliminated. To help check American Medical Association attacks against the HCR reform legislation, House Democrats just passed a ‘Doc Fix’ bill, which provides a 2.2 percent pay raise this year for physicians, followed by a one percent hike next year, and the Senate will take up the legislation after the recess.
Another Kaiser poll indicates that Dems have much to gain by clarifying the benefits of HCR to the public, as TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira reports:
…There are a wide variety of changes that will take effect this year as a result of the law. Kaiser tested favorability to 11 of these changes, including “allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26” (74 percent favorable), “providing tax credits to businesses with fewer than 25 workers that provide health insurance to their employees” (86 percent favorable), and “making it harder for insurance companies to drop someone’s coverage when that person has a major health problem” (81 percent favorable). The average across the 11 changes was 73 percent favorable, with no change lower than 57 percent favorable.
Rushing notes that the Republicans also have a recess packet for their candidates:
The Senate Republican packet is only a single page, focusing solely on “Jobs — Debt — Terror” and urging GOP senators to spread word that Democratic congressional leaders are focused on “Too many taxes… Too much debt… Too much spending… And too many Washington takeovers.” The GOP packet also zeroes in on healthcare, calling it “Exhibit A” of a “Runaway Washington Government.”
It’s clear Dems must promote the hard-won short-term benefits of HCR for seniors, in particular. But it’s equally-important for Dems, to not focus all of their energies on being defensive, and to vigorously attack the GOP, which has failed to support any legislation that benefits seniors, obstructed pension reform and wants to weaken Social Security. There are many seniors who won’t vote Democratic in November, but who might stay at home when reminded that Republicans offer seniors nothing but tax cuts and reduced services.