Sunday, February 25, 2018
Politics

Scott hopes Medicare Advantage cuts win seniors over to his side

Gov. Rick Scott is kick-starting an online ad campaign that hits an old but target-rich opponent: Obama­care.

In a testimonial-style video geared toward seniors (women older than 60 are the likeliest of all voters in Florida), Scott highlights the cuts in Medicare Advantage spending under the Affordable Care Act.

"Seniors retire based on a belief that they're going to have a health care system that's going to be there," Scott says in the 30-second clip, which is paid for by his campaign and appears on Facebook. "These Medicare cuts that the president has caused are the wrong thing for Florida seniors."

The Florida Democratic Party issued a blistering response pointing out that Scott once led the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, which was socked with a record Medicare-fraud fine of $1.7 billion.

"He lost the right to accuse Democrats of raiding Medicare when he oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the nation's history," Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp said in a statement.

"The fact is that Medicare Advantage was supposed to save taxpayers money, and now it's costing them more than classic Medicare," Karp said. "The savings in the new health care law are being invested right back into our health care.''

A politician who formerly shared Scott's opinion about Medicare Advantage reductions is Charlie Crist, the former Republican-turned-independent governor, who is now running as a Democrat against Scott to get his old job back. "I would have voted against the (Affordable Care Act) because of unacceptable provisions like the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program," Crist said in 2010.

Crist now supports Obama and his signature health law.

Republicans nationwide are zeroing in on Medicare Advantage, which is part of the federal insurance program for seniors and the disabled, but is managed by private insurers. Tax dollars have subsidized the popular managed-care plans since they began in 2006, and the Affordable Care Act has sought to bring their cost back in line with traditional Medicare. But insurers say this will mean higher costs for Medicare Advantage users.

Scott's team issued a press statement about the issue after he joined other governors at a meeting with Obama on Monday. In criticizing Obamacare, Scott is on familiar ground. Before he ran for governor, Scott founded his own political group, Conservatives for Patients' Rights, to fight the president's proposal back in 2009. He was also vocal in opposing the Clinton administration's health reform proposals in the 1990s.

The nucleus of Scott's group became his successful gubernatorial campaign in 2010, a conservative-wave year when Republicans harnessed anti-Obamacare sentiment, fueled by seniors' concerns over Medicare.

But the botched rollout of the online insurance marketplace last year seriously wounded the program's reputation.

Polls indicate Crist is ahead of Scott. But Scott is holding his own in Florida when compared with Obama. Last month's Quinnipiac University survey found that 41 percent approve of Scott's job performance, compared with 49 percent who say they disapprove. Meanwhile, 42 percent of Floridians approve of how Obama is handling his job, compared with 53 percent who disapprove.

Attacking Obamacare could help Scott shore up his Republican base and win back those who are supporting Crist.

Scott, who has raised about $31 million since winning office, has spent about $4.3 million. He hopes to spend as much as $100 million.

Crist wants to have at least half of what Scott spends. He has raised about $5.4 million and spent $518,000 since announcing his bid in early November. He has about $4.8 million on hand.

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