The White House, after a furious pushback from conservatives and seniors, dumped one of its efforts to undermine the most market-oriented aspect of Medicare. The Wall Street Journal reports, “The Obama administration said Monday that it would scrap much of a proposed plan to limit the types of antidepressants and other drugs that seniors can get through Medicare after a backlash from lawmakers and the health industry. In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed broad changes to the Medicare Part D prescription-drug program that covers medicines for about 39 million beneficiaries.” In a perverse attempt to limit competition and patient choice the proposed changes would also have prohibited companies from offering more than two plans.
In reversing itself, the administration demonstrated it is running scared on Medicare and trying to stanch the bleeding. (“Medicare’s decision to shelve the idea was cheered Monday by many patient groups, insurers and health-care providers. A group of more than 200 of them had previously urged Medicare to withdraw its Part D proposal. ‘The decision will help ensure our nation’s seniors continue to have access to the prescription medicines they need,’ the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network said in a statement.”) And yes, there is a special election today in the Florida 13th congressional district, perhaps giving some urgency to halting the uproar.
Coincidentally (or not), the conservative YG Network came out with a poll on Monday that showed:
Seniors don’t like Obamacare. Their approval of the law stands at 36-57, with 44% strongly disapproving. And, 55% expect the law to negatively impact Medicare
An overwhelming majority of seniors are happy with their current Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Part D plans. Moreover, any hint of reductions or changes bring expectations of increased costs and reduced access.
Seniors are ready to blame Democrats for negative changes (50% say Obamacare/Dems in Congress will deserve most blame for any increase in Medicare Advantage costs, 51% say the same for any increase in Part D costs).
Chris Bond, a spokesman for YG Network, told Right Turn. “The results of this poll demonstrate the massive pressure the administration and their allies in Congress are under from seniors — not only leading up to their decision today to back off the Part D changes, but crucially as we move forward, the trouble they have on their hands with Medicare Advantage and with seniors’ very negative views of Obamacare.” The politics, he said are obvious: “To put a finer point on it, if I were someone like Kay Hagan, Mark Udall or Mary Landrieu, I’d be very concerned about these numbers and what they mean for my future.”
Republicans on Capitol Hill crowed but were quick to emphasize that the administration’s attack on Medicare Advantage has yet to be reversed. Communications director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Don Stewart e-mailed, “We were pleasantly surprised to see the Obama administration backtracking on a number of proposals that would undermine the highly successful Medicare prescription drug program. This is good news for seniors who have already seen the administration cut Medicare to fund Obamacare.” But, he cautioned that Republicans “remain concerned about the impact of Obamacare’s looming cuts to Medicare Advantage, something that was not addressed in today’s announcement. Seniors need to know whether the president will stand by his word, and that they can keep the plans they have and like.”
Kevin Smith, communications director for the speaker of the House, likewise reacted: “It’s a welcome acknowledgement to the significant bipartisan opposition to this flawed rule. There is similar, bipartisan opposition to the looming Medicare Advantage cuts — which will force seniors to lose their plan, their doctor or many of their health benefits — and CMS should act in a similar fashion.”
More than anything, the move suggests an administration in utter disarray. Did no one imagine the firestorm? Democrats, who perfected the art of Mediscare, now are serving up fodder for nearly every Republican candidate on the November ballot. Every administration about-face or delay is now seen for what it is: a desperate attempt not to further endanger Senate Democrats and avoid public wrath. To say they have lost credibility as the guardians of seniors’ health care would be an understatement.