Timing is everything. Early this year, the ravages of inflation made the midterms look like a walk in the park for Republicans. Then the public revulsion against the Supreme Court’s anti-abortion decision in Dobbs made the campaign a street fight between the two parties. In the last few weeks, the GOP put Democrats on the defensive on crime.
Now, it’s time for Democrats to play their ace and change the momentum with a closing push that features the improvements that President Biden and the Democratic Congress have made to Medicare and the GOP threats to the lifesaving program that has preserved the health, wealth and wellbeing of millions of struggling families.
The delivery of affordable and accessible health care is a vital part of the Democratic DNA. The party has a long, rich and proud tradition of making health care available for millions of hard-working and financially strapped Americans. It’s time for Democrats to press the advantage they have on health care, stand tall and champion improvements in Medicare in the waning days of the midterm campaign.
Democratic presidents have moved mountains to improve health care. The struggle to guarantee health care insurance coverage for every American started in when President Harry Truman wanted to create Medicare in 1945 and Republicans rebuffed his efforts and attacked his proposal as a communist plot.
Democrats didn’t give up and the party preserved in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson pushed Congress to create Medicare, which extended basic health care insurance coverage to seniors and to disabled Americans. President Barack Obama took the next step forward in 2009 when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The latest groundbreaking health care initiative from Democrats is Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
The new law is notable for its efforts to fund the fight against climate change, but it also has important health care cost elements. The new law limits the cost of insulin injections to $35 and caps out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 a year for Medicare recipients. It gives the federal government the authority to use its market power to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prescription drug prices and extends benefits from the Affordable Care Act for middle-class families.
Two of these provisions are overwhelmingly popular with the public. A national poll conducted for Reuters in August found that seven out of every 10 Americans supported the provisions in the law that give the government the power to negotiate discount prices with drug companies. Six-tenths of the public supported the provision to extend ACA benefits for middle-income Americans.
But two months later — and only a month before the crucial midterm elections — a new poll for the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates few Americans are aware of the benefits they would enjoy under the new law. It’s time for Democrats to remind voters in the short time left until Election Day of the advantages of the new IRA law.
The best reason for Democrats to focus the closing argument on health care is that it draws a clear contrast between the two parties. Republicans have fought Democratic initiatives to make health care more affordable and accessible every step of the way and the GOP stood up for Big Pharma and health insurance corporations that care more about profits than patients.
Not one Republican in Congress supported the Inflation Reduction Act and Senate Republicans killed an amendment to cap insulin prices for all diabetes patients.
If that wasn’t bad enough, GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, endorsed efforts to make Medicare and Social Security discretionary programs, which would put these lifesaving programs on the congressional chopping block every year. Sadly, GOP midterm congressional candidates followed their lead. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California indicated that Medicare cuts would be the price of Republican support in the post-election congressional debate over the extension of the federal debt limit.
A focus on the exciting improvements in Medicare coverage would also serve as a reminder that Democrats can deliver even with a slim majority in Congress. A campaign centered on the cost-saving medical aspects of IRA would also address concerns that weigh heavily on the minds of midterm voters.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Republicans are still obsessed with socialism and Democrats should continue to stand tall and fight hard to protect the hard-earned gains that the president and congressional Democrats delivered to Americans who struggle to keep their loved ones healthy without going bankrupt.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline DC with Brad Bannon,” tunes on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon