Candidate: John F. Kerry
Images: Madison Square Garden; President Bush speaking at the GOP convention; newspaper headlines such as "Medicare Premiums to Rise Record 17 Percent" and "Drug Prices Soar"; Kerry speaking before a flag; smiling older women.
Time: 30 seconds
Audio: [Narrator:] George Bush touting his Medicare bill to the nation.
[Bush:] I believe we have a moral responsibility to honor America's seniors. Now seniors are getting immediate help.
[Narrator:] The very next day George Bush imposes the biggest Medicare premium increase in history while prescription drug costs still skyrocket. The wrong direction for America. John Kerry: a plan to lower the cost of health care, and take America in a new direction.
Analysis: The contrast between Bush's Thursday night convention speech and the Friday morning announcement by Medicare officials is obviously a legitimate issue. But the ad overstates the case by saying that "George Bush imposes" the increase in Medicare premiums. By law, the premiums are set by the Department of Health and Human Services without any White House involvement, based on a formula that in this case largely reflected rising health costs and increased benefits. But officials say more than 15 percent of the increase does stem from Bush's new Medicare law, which includes an initiative to pay insurers billions of dollars to encourage them to offer private health plans rather than dropping out of Medicare.
In percentage terms, the premium boost is the largest in 15 years, not in the 40-year history of the program.
Bush at the convention was talking about his new prescription drug program for senior citizens, which has not fully taken effect, while the boost in premiums applies to the overall program and is not related to the new drug benefit. But the Kerry camp knows that distinction is likely to be lost on older Americans facing higher health care bills. This ad. the latest in a series of postconvention spots on jobs and health care, reflects Kerry's determination to get off the defensive on national security and focus the campaign on domestic issues.
-- Howard Kurtz
Video of this ad can be found at www.washingtonpost.com/politics.