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The Good News Is the Medicare Bill Passed, The Bad News Is the Medicare Bill Passed

For the GOP, that is. The general assumption is that passage of the bill will significantly help the Republicans by delivering a new benefit to seniors, burnishing Bushís compassionate conservative credentials and taking a key Democratic issue off the table.

And that would be true if another, better Medicare bill had passed. It is not true of the actual bill that passed.

Take the views of seniors, surely where the payoff for the GOP should be most obvious, if there is a payoff. According to a poll last week by Peter Hart Research for the AFL-CIO, almost two-thirds of voters 55 and older thought Congress and the White House should work for a better Medicare prescription drug plan than the one on offer. Just 19 percent wanted Congress to pass the bill under consideration.

The same poll found that 65 percent of these voters viewed the drug plan unfavorably and the same number viewed the subsidies for private HMOs unfavorably. Also, 64 percent opposed the billís provisions to ban importation of drugs from Canada and an overwhelming 78 percent said the bill doesnít do enough to protect retirees now covered by employer-provided prescription drug plans.

Oh, but thatís just an AFL-CIO poll, right? What can you expect from them? Perhaps it wasnít a good (fair and balanced?) poll, etc.

That complaint would have more credence if we didnít have even more recent results from the University of Pennsylvania National Annenberg Election Survey. This survey found that, based on a carefully neutral description of the bill (see link), the public as a whole opposed the bill 42 percent to 40 percent, registered voters opposed it 44 percent to 39 percent, those over 50 opposed the bill 49 percent to 36 percent and those over 65 opposed it 49 percent to 33 percent. And, interestingly, those holding a favorable opinion of AARP, which of course endorsed the bill, opposed its passage 45 percent to 38 percent.

So, itís not a particularly popular bill, especially with those itís intended to directly benefit. And the Democrats are going to relentlessly dwell on the shortcomings of the bill, from failure to control drug costs to moving away from a choice-of-doctor-based Medicare system to the skimpiness of the benefit and its impact on those who already have good drug coverage. By these data, seniors are already inclined to believe much of what Democrats are going to be saying.

That likely spells trouble for the GOP. Just saying itís better than nothing wonít help them much, in DRís view. Nor will the fact that seniors wonít actually receive the benefit until 2006Ėand so, runs the argument, they wonít realize how bad it is until after 2004.

How dumb do they think seniors are? DRís betting theyíll figure this one out pretty quickĖand when they do, theyíll come to the obvious conclusion: if you want health care done right, hire a Democrat.


"...if you want health care done right, hire a Democrat."

Better yet, hire a DOCTOR!

Thanks Ruy,
now if we can just get the dem leadersip to focus their message accordingly. i saw dashel on meet the press on sunday and was very disapointed. why did he start talking insider political strategy? we all knew the bill was going to pass. dashel instead chose to talk about senate proceedures and allude to a few trick cards he had up his sleeve. it was a waste of an opportunity to slam an unpopular bill. you know when the party pushing to pass the bill sells it by saying, - "it not perfect, but it is what could be acheived at this time" , - it is a sure bet that they will have some problems down the road with it. if the dems intend to capitalize on this issue they have to do better.

someone needs to tell dashle that it is time to suit up for battle. we are going into a very tough election year and we cannot afford to be ineffectual. no one should blame him or any other dem for the passage of this bill - i am sure they had reasons. but we all need to stand solidly behind a strategy that robs the repubs of any potential gains they might recieve from the passage of this bill. we cannot afford to waste prime opportunities talking insider politics when a better shots can be taken (i.e., lambasting the pres and repubs in congress for forwarding such an expensive and ineffective policy when a better alternative was available).

Where does it say that this bill moves away from the
current "choice of doctor" system. If true, this alone is maybe enough to poison this Gingerich love child before it grows into full monster adulthood.