Dems hail health law's benefits for seniors

Democrats and their allies on Monday began a week-long celebration of the healthcare reform law's second anniversary with a coordinated push to defend its benefits for seniors — one day before House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveils his newest Medicare overhaul proposal.

The White House and House Democrats touted the latest figures on how many Medicare beneficiaries have already benefited from the law, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched robocalls in 41 Republican districts attacking Medicare cuts that could result from Ryan's budget proposal.

ADVERTISEMENT
Simultaneously, the seniors' lobby AARP launched what it's calling its largest-ever outreach effort with ads and town-hall meetings in 50 states aimed at defending Medicare and Social Security.

"We're not leaving it up to chance" that the public hears about the law's benefits, congressional Seniors Task Force co-chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said in a press call.

Democrats, she added, have made it a "primary organization effort" … "to tell the truth [about the law] over the next several months."

Democrats see the Ryan budget, which is expected to propose replacing Medicare with subsidies for people to buy insurance, as political gold ahead of the November election.

Republicans for their part will spend the week hammering the law's "broken promises" — higher premiums, employers dropping coverage and the soaring cost of insurance subsidies when compared to the earlier budget window Democrats highlighted when they were debating the law two years ago. They're also arguing that the healthcare law hastens Medicare's insolvency by removing $500 billion from the program to pay for what they call an unsustainable new entitlements.

The law, according to new numbers from the Medicare agency, has helped 5.1 million Medicare beneficiaries save more than $3.2 billion since it was enacted two years ago Friday.

That includes 103,000 seniors and people with disabilities who saved $93 million in prescription drug coverage in the first two months of 2012, according to the latest data from the Medicare agency. On average, the Department of Health and Human Services says, Medicare beneficiaries have saved $635 on prescription drugs.

Democrats say Republicans will suffer a backlash if they continue to push for repeal because more and more people are benefiting from specific provisions of the law, such as seniors who can now access preventive care without co-pays or deductibles.

"I think as time goes by more and more people are beginning to support the reform because it starts to apply to them," said Democratic Caucus Vice-Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.).

"The more people see what the ACA does, the more they're going to like it."

The latest polling suggests Democrats have an uphill fight, however. Public opinion about the law is evenly divided, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll, with 41 percent holding a favorable view of the law versus 40 percent unfavorable.

—Sam Baker contributed.\