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DNC hits back on Medicare

From NBC'S Ali Weinberg

The Democratic National Committee released an ad yesterday saying that Republicans in Congress "voted to abolish Medicare." The ad responds to GOP claims that Democratic plans for health care reform would mean cuts to care for the elderly and disabled.

In a conference call with reporters today, DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse denied that changes to Medicare would negatively affect seniors' health. He declined to get into specifics about how the Democrats plan to pay for health-care reform, deferring instead to the president's speech before the joint sessions of Congress this evening.

There have been several iterations of how Democrats plan to pay for the bill, and the president has expressed some support for things like taxing the wealthiest Americans, the wealthiest health-care plans and a possible soda tax. Nothing is for certain, however. What is certain, is that the president has vowed that health reform would be deficit-neutral.

"You can well bet that when the president is done tonight, the American people are going to know how he's going to pay for all of this," Woodhouse said.

The DNC ad criticizes individual Republicans who voted on a proposed budgetary amendment that would have replaced Medicare coverage with vouchers that future senior citizens could use to buy private health insurance. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Woodhouse said Ryan "represents the conservative movement that's opposed to insurance reform and wants to undermine Medicare." Woodhouse's statement comes as Republicans have recently said they support Medicare's preservation, citing the perceived suffering the elderly would incur if the insurance program was altered.

Steve Regenstreif, AFSCME director of retiree programs, also was critical of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

"McConnell said the president's proposals would be paid for on the backs of seniors through Medicare cuts," Regenstreif said. That, Regenstreif stated, is "a lie." He added that Democrats are working on "cost containment throughout the entire health-care system."

Woodhouse also linked congressional Republicans to Sarah Palin, whose remarks about government-run "death panels" were re-aired today in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Speaking about Minnesota GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen, Woodhouse asked, "Does he want to cast his lot with Sarah Palin and with the right wing of his party that would like to undermine Medicare, or does he have a different approach? So far he's cast his lot."