The Republican Party is out today with a new Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights. As described by party chairman Michael Steele in the Washington Post, the guarantees include:
- Protecting, not cutting, Medicare;
- Prohibiting government from getting between seniors and their doctors;
- Outlawing any effort to ration health care based on age;
- Preventing government from dictating the terms of end-of-life care;
- Preserving Tricare, the veterans health care program.
The plan echoes the old Contract with America of 1994. In fact, Steele refers to the Health Care Bill of Rights as “the Republican Party’s contract with seniors.”
The benefit of such a straight-forward approach is that it makes for good messaging. Not only does it boil down complicated policy questions into easily understandable talking points, it also offers a litmus test for future government action – sort of a money-back guarantee, which everyone loves and few people ever enforce.
Targeting seniors is also a smart move, since elderly people are prone to both get upset about things and vote.
Traditionally, seniors don’t trust Republicans with their government health care. The Medicare prescription drug benefit passed in 2003 hasn’t done a whole lot to change that. If Republicans can make inroads on a social safety net issue like Medicare, GOP congressional candidates could benefit in 2010.
On the downside, the contract does dip Republican toes into the pool of Medicare demagoguery. Everyone knows Medicare will have to be cut sometime, by someone. But that’s an issue to worry about when you’re governing, not when you’re in the opposition.