Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

Originally posted on Huffington Post.

There’s a simple question American seniors should ask candidates who claim to want to protect Medicare:  “Did you oppose Obamacare because it ‘cuts’ Medicare while also voting for those same Medicare spending cuts in the GOP/Ryan Budget plan?  For 277 members of the House, that answer was yes.

Paul Ryan’s selection as Governor Romney’s Vice-Presidential running mate has Republican Party leaders understandably worried that voters will now get a good look at the radical plans for Medicare in the GOP budget and a tally of those candidates who supported it.  A memo and campaign how-to video from the National Republican Congressional Committee provides an incredibly clear and cynical look behind their political curtain, as the NRCC gives Republican candidates tips on how to dodge the discussion they really don’t want to have about the votes they’ve already cast on Medicare:

“Do not say: ‘entitlement reform,’ ‘privatization,’ ‘every option is on the table,’ … Do say: ‘strengthen,’ ‘secure,’ ‘save,’ ‘preserve, ‘protect.’”  NRCC Medicare Memo

These GOP operatives say they want this Medicare fight.  Truth is, they really hope to refight health care reform so they can avoid talking about Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare.  The proof is in the memo.  In ten minutes of YouTube tutoring on how GOP candidates should talk about Medicare, there is not one reference on how candidates can effectively persuade voters that the GOP/Ryan plan is the right policy for Americans.  Not one word on how candidates should campaign to convince voters that privatizing Medicare and making it harder for seniors to choose their own doctor is the right thing. Not one word on why seniors’ should pay much more for less coverage, why the retirement age should be raised, why the prescription drug donut hole should be reinstated or, why Medicare and Medicaid should be cut to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy. 

The GOP strategy for their candidates is clear -- simply don’t talk about the GOP plans for seniors in Medicare. Talk about the Affordable Care Act, instead.  If you get a question about the Ryan budget? “Obamacare robs Medicare”.  Get a question about the GOP plan to end Medicare?  “Obamacare robs Medicare”.  What about raising seniors’ preventative care and prescription costs?  “Obamacare robs Medicare”.  You get the idea. The strategy is to continue to tell seniors their benefits were cut, even though they weren’t.  Ignore the fact that health care reform preserves every dime of Medicare benefits while the GOP/Ryan plan uses that money to pay for millionaire tax breaks.  Disregard the 32 million seniors who have already received new preventive benefits through ACA. Don’t talk about the closing of the Part D donut hole or the $3.1 billion dollars in real savings seniors have already seen in their prescription drug coverage.  And whatever you do, absolutely never, ever, let on that the same GOP candidates -- decrying Medicare reforms falsely labeled as benefit cuts in the Affordable Care Act -- voted for those same provisions  when they passed the GOP/Ryan budget.  At the same time by the way, Republicans also voted to end Medicare leaving seniors at the mercy of private insurers to face higher costs for less coverage. 

However, what this divert and deflect strategy ignores is how much easier it was to fool voters before the ACA was implemented. I predict this year will be different. It’s simply a lot harder now to believe a political candidate who’s telling you your Medicare benefits were slashed when you remember taking your $250 drug rebate check to the bank, you paid $600 less in drug costs this year, didn’t fall into the donut hole, and received your first free mammogram in Medicare.  Now that seniors are seeing first hand their benefits were not cut, and were in fact improved, this Medicare myth can finally be laid to rest next to the infamous (and also false) “death panels” claim made by Republicans.

The GOP “Obamacare Robs Medicare” myth will finally be exposed and with the selection of Paul Ryan it should get the national attention needed to put a stop to it once and for all. Just as with President Bush’s campaign to privatize Social Security, the more the American people find out what the Ryan/GOP plan for Medicare contains the less they’ll like it. That process has just begun and it will be a real eye-opener for the millions of American retirees who continue to be the targets of one of most cynical Mediscare campaigns in political history.