GOP seeks to improve Medicare message

June 3, 2011 at 2:09 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 3 (UPI) -- Republicans are struggling to find a way to improve their Medicare message -- blasted by Democrats -- but are split about how to do it, political insiders say.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has called for a simple message about the Medicare plan proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., but Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said he thinks the message should be deeper, The Hill reported.

Under Ryan's proposal, Medicare would be turned into a voucher system within the private insurance industry. Democrats have blasted the plan as "ending Medicare as we know it," while Republicans say it wouldn't affect current participants or people now 55 years old or older.

Bachmann, who's mulling a presidential run, said during a visit to Iowa Ryan's plan should be called the "55 and under plan" since its major reforms do not affect current Medicare beneficiaries.

However, Boehner rejected the notion that pithy sound bites and a simplistic message will explain the plan.

"It's not that easy," Boehner said. "We have to engage. We have to be on offense."

Ryan has said he's optimistic Republicans will be able to educate the general public about key elements of Medicare reforms and avoid Election Day losses in 2012.

However, some Republican strategists told The Hill Ryan needs reinforcements.

John Feehery, a former GOP leadership aide who works for Quinn Gillespie & Associates and a columnist for The Hill, said House Republicans must have intense training on "how to communicate on Medicare … to know the ins and outs of the program … to be very conversant as to the details."

"Seniors understand Medicare better than anybody so the members need to make sure they are fully briefed on what you should say, what you shouldn't say and what the program actually does," Feehery said.

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