Obama Attacks McCain on Medicare

By Julia Hoppock

Oct 17, 2008 2:55pm

ROANOKE, Va. — Teeing off a Wall Street Journal story from earlier this month, suggesting that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., intends to make cuts in Medicare, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., today launched an aggressive attack on McCain in the hopes of appealing to seniors.

"The Wall Street Journal recently reported that … Sen. McCain would pay for part of his plan by making drastic cuts in Medicare -– $882 billion worth," Obama told a crowd of more than 8,000 in Roanoke, Va., today.

"$882 billion in Medicare cuts to pay for an ill-conceived, badly thought through health care plan that won’t provide more health care to people, even though Medicare is already facing a looming shortfall. Now, this should come as no surprise –- it’s entirely consistent with Sen. McCain’s record during his 26 years in Congress where, time and again, he’s opposed Medicare. In fact, Sen. McCain has voted against protecting Medicare 40 times. Forty times, he’s failed to stand up for Medicare."

The Journal story said that, according to McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain "would pay for his health plan with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid, a top aide said, in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs. … Mr. Holtz-Eakin said the Medicare and Medicaid changes would improve the programs and eliminate fraud, but he didn’t detail where the cuts would come from. ‘It’s about giving them the benefit package that has been promised to them by law at lower cost,’ he said."

Obama said this would mean "a cut of more than 20 percent in Medicare benefits next year. If you count on Medicare, it would mean fewer places to get care, and less freedom to choose your own doctors. You’ll pay more for your drugs, you’ll receive fewer services, you’ll get lower quality care. I don’t think that’s right. In fact, it ain’t right.  When you’ve worked hard your whole life, and paid into the system, and done everything right, you shouldn’t have the carpet pulled out from under you when you least expect it and can least afford it."

Why would Obama launch this attack with 18 days left to go before the election?

Simple: Seniors vote in disproportionately large numbers.

Moreover: the four states with the largest proportions of seniors as a percentage of the population are all in contention — in order: Florida, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Iowa.

In addition to the new stump speech attack, Obama today launched a new TV ad attacking McCain on the subject.

In response, McCain campaign spox Tucker Bounds issued a statement saying, “Unlike Barack Obama’s risky plan, John McCain’s plans for health care do not punish struggling businesses with fines and taxes, and they certainly do not cut a single benefit for Medicare or Medicaid –- Obama is simply lying.  It’s absurd for Barack Obama to label John McCain’s plans to trim spending for Medicare and Medicaid as ‘drastic cuts,’ only to then say that his own plans to make cuts will ‘strengthen’ those programs.  For Barack Obama to talk about the hope of America and then proceed into misleading and hypocritical accusations only underscores what voters already know: Barack Obama is not who you think he is.”

– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

UPDATE: Though he wouldn’t apparently specify the cuts to the WSJ, Holtz-Eakin is now detailing the savings in Medicare McCain would pursue.

They include:

* Payment reform from current fragmented and volume-based service to one that rewards coordinated and quality focused care;
* Elimination of Medicare fraud and abuse;
* Making sure drug premiums for the wealthiest Americans are not being subsidized by the middle class;
* Promotion of a new generation of treatment models that better manage chronic care conditions while rewarding prevention and wellness;
* Greater use of Health IT and medical homes to promote greater co-ordination of care; and
* Reduction of drug costs by allowing greater use of generics (including bio-generics).

The McCain campaign points out that several of these are also Obama proposals and says, "Only the liberal media and the Obama campaign would characterize similar proposals as ‘savings’ in their plan and ‘cutting benefits, eligibility or both’ in the McCain plan."

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