KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Seniors Worry About Democratic Proposals, Reform Opponents’ Messages

In response to Democratic health reform proposals, seniors are attending town halls, writing letters to lawmakers, showing support for the GOP in polls, and "giving their legislators a piece of their mind that a way of life is slipping away," The Washington Times reports. A survey from Public Policy Polling in September poll "found Republicans winning on a generic ballot among seniors, after recent polling had found that 46 percent of seniors identify themselves as Republicans, 33 percent as Democrats and 22 percent as independents."

The Times quotes Andrea Campbell, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "This is the age group for which health care is the most salient. The idea that reform might take some money out of the Medicare budget has them understandably alarmed by what this reform might bring. ... There is a lot of uncertainty around this that breeds fear. The problem for the Obama administration with health care reform is the fact that they are operating in a political system that is oriented toward the status quo. It's much easier to stop major legislation than to pass it"  (Billups, 9/21).

By contrast, "Diane Janicke says she's sick of all the lies," the Buffalo News reports. "She's heard about the fictitious 'death panels,' she's heard the rumor that President Obama's health plan would cut off Medicare to people over age 80, and she's telling her friends not to listen to all the tall tales." The News reports, "Medicare has long been one of the great untouchables of American politics, and President Obama has gone to great lengths to try to convince the huge senior population that he can cut waste from Medicare without hurting the elderly" (Zremski, 9/19).

And The Wall Street Journal reports that an investigation, "launched Friday, is looking at whether Humana, one of the largest providers of Medicare Advantage plans, violated marketing rules by sending letters to beneficiaries in Michigan, Florida and other states urging them to contact lawmakers to register their opposition to proposed cuts." The letters warned that millions of seniors could lose critical benefits if the Democrats succeed in their overhaul plans (Zhang, 9/21).

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