KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Republicans’ Changed Stance On Medicare Has Historical Roots

The Associated Press reports: "Right now, [President] Obama's troubled plan is on the same shaky ground that preceded President George W. Bush' grand flop with Social Security. The parallels are remarkably similar: A president lays out broad outlines for his top legislative priority and lets his party allies in Congress work out the details of legislation. The opposition pounces, casting the measure as an assault on a cherished government entitlement for older Americans. In 2005, Democrats depicted Bush's proposed retirement investment accounts as a move toward privatizing Social Security. Republican unity broke down and Bush's plan went down in a heap. ... The Democratic Party, mindful of the potential damage from the GOP, is hitting back aggressively with a new ad campaign that brands Republicans as the true enemies of Medicare. But older voters might not be so easy to bring back" (Kuhnhenn, 9/7).

The GOP's change of stance on Medicare raises questions about its motives, The Associated Press reports in a separate story: "Weren't Republicans against Medicare before they were for it? It's a question vexing Democrats in the fierce battle over President Barack Obama's push for a health care overhaul as the head of the Republican Party has portrayed the GOP as the lone bulwark preventing deep cuts to the popular, government-run health plan for older people."

"It's a remarkable turnaround for a party whose leaders tried to slash billions from Medicare more than a decade ago and have assailed the program as a wasteful entitlement. None other than Ronald Reagan, a hero to Republicans, warned in 1961 that creation of Medicare would push the country toward socialism. The new GOP posture may be politically savvy given older Americans' fears of major changes to Medicare, which were among the concerns widely on display at angry town hall meetings across the country last month. But the new stance also contradicts the party's long history of skepticism toward government-run programs and Republican concerns about the long-term viability and health of the Medicare system" (Fouhy, 9/8).

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