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« In The States, Democratic Leaders See Health Care Outcome As A Turning Point | Blog Home Page | Health Care Fight Returns To Town Halls »

Senior Concern: Health Reform And The Midterms

Democrats got some good news Tuesday when a new USA Today/Gallup survey found that about half of Americans felt the health care reform bill that had just passed the House was "a good thing." However, a look behind the numbers shows that one important group is distinctly unexcited: senior citizens. Some 54% of those 65 years or older think the bill is a "bad thing" -- the highest negative score of any age bloc.

During debate on the bill, Republicans made a point of reminding seniors at every opportunity that the new entitlement would be financed partly by cuts to Medicare. Now Senate Democrats have wisely begun focusing their own messaging on seniors as they vote on a package of "reconciliation" changes to the bill this week.

"Health care reform is a victory for seniors," Sen. Max Baucus declared yesterday at a Democratic press conference. "Among the biggest winners from the passage of health reform are seniors in Nevada and across America," echoed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who's facing a challenging re-election campaign.

This claim rests on the bill's closing of the so-called donut hole in the 2003 law extending prescription-drug coverage to seniors. Democrats obviously realize that a benny for seniors is politically required, given their high propensity to vote. The party leadership even issued a memo playing up the numbers of elders who will benefit by state: 565,000 in Florida, 393,000 in Pennsylvania, and 58,200 in Mr. Reid's home state of Nevada -- all places seniors have a big hand in deciding who's sent to Congress.