Friday, September 14, 2012

Health Care: RNC vs. DNC

It’s no secret that President Obama and Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney disagree on most points of public policy, but their perspectives perhaps most contrast in concerns to health care, and the future of Medicare and Medicaid.

As is customary, both parties used their conventions to unveil and explain their platforms. A noteworthy difference in this year’s election and convention trajectories is the emphasis on the future of America’s health care system. As the economic crisis continues to loom over Americans, both parties acknowledge that the current Medicare system is unsustainable. With such particularly high stakes, one would think that Obama and Romney would have used their respective conventions to highlight and promote their starkly different viewpoints on health care.

But that’s not exactly what happened.

At the Republican National Convention (RNC), Romney included all of two lines on health care in his Aug. 30 nomination acceptance speech. “[Obama’s] $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors and depress innovation and jobs in medicine,” he said. Romney went on to firmly vow to repeal and replace Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA).

Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was, in his much anticipated Aug. 29 speech, much more aggressive about health care than his running mate. Ryan, who has been infamously immortalized in the Agenda Project’s ‘throw Grandma off the cliff’ advertisements, recalled his own grandmother having gained financial assistance from Medicare when she moved in with him and his mother. He vowed to “protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.”

Interestingly, one of Ryan’s biggest applause lines of the night revolved around health care. “Our nation needs this debate,” he said. “We want this debate and we will win this debate.”

Multiple speakers at the RNC noted Obamacare’s negative influence on the private sector and echoed beliefs that health care reform would greatly hinder job growth, since business owners would fail to expand so as to avoid the hefty fees and regulations associated with the ACA.

The keynote speaker at the RNC, Governor Chris Christie (NJ) mostly avoided talk of health care but did vow that Romney would “end the debacle of putting the world’s greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.”

A week later in his Sept. 6 nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), President Obama did not make a single mention of the ACA. Pundits had previously speculated whether or not he would use his speech to promote the ACA, the major public policy achievement of his first term. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that the ACA is constitutional this past June, polls reflect that most Americans continue to oppose the legislation.

Obama chose to indirectly reference the improvements made by his administration instead, and thanked Americans for helping a young girl in Phoenix who, through health care reform, will receive a heart surgery that she previously may have been unable to undergo due to rising insurance costs.

Obama hurled an indirect shot towards Ryan’s support of vouchers, which was reflected in his authored 2011 “Path to Prosperity” budget proposal. “I refuse… to eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled—all so those with the most can pay less,” he said. “And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher.”

Obama painted a picture of a grisly, unfeeling GOP: “Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing,” he said. “If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick.”

Similar to President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden made not one mention of the ACA in his Sept. 6 nomination acceptance speech at the DNC, instead opting to attack the Romney-Ryan platform.
“You heard [the Republicans] talk about how they cared so much about Medicare. How much they want to preserve it,” he said. “What they didn’t tell you is the plan they have already put down on paper would immediately cut benefits for more than 30 million senior already on Medicare… they’re for a new plan. It’s called voucher care. That’s not courage. That’s not even truthful.”
Former President Clinton’s much anticipated Sept. 5 speech at the DNC was the sole major primetime speech that directly addressed Medicaid.
“[Republicans] want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming ten years,” he asserted. He later continued, “A lot of folks don’t know it, but nearly two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for Medicare seniors who are eligible for Medicaid.”
Clinton rebuked Ryan’s previous claim that Obama had funneled $716 billion from Medicare in order to fund Obamacare.
“If [Romney is] elected and does what he promised Medicare will go broke by 2016. If that happens, you won’t have to wait until their voucher program to begin in 2023 to see the end of Medicare as we know it.”
The News York Times tracked how often key terms were used in this years’ RNC and DNC speeches. Results were:
  • Medicare- Mentioned 7.3 times per 25,000 words at the RNC and 26 times per 25,000 words at the DNC
  • Medicaid- Mentioned 0.4 times per 25,000 words at the RNC and 2.4 times per 25,000 words at the DNC
  • Long term care- Mentioned 0 times per 25,000 words at the RNC and 0.3 times per 25,000 words at the DNC
  • Nursing home- Mentioned 0.4 times per 25,000 words at the RNC and 0.3 times per 25,000 words at the DNC
Though Obama and Romney both chose to mostly side-step the health care debate in their nomination acceptance speeches at the DNC and RNC, they surely won’t be able to escape the topic in their three upcoming debates. Be sure to check back in with us for full coverage of the first Presidential Debate to be held in Denver on Oct. 3.

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