Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Five Races in Which the Health Care Debate Will Matter

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Demonstrators hold a rally at the Health and Human Services building Friday to protest the HHS mandates under the new health care law. The Supreme Court will hear a case on the law’s constitutionality today.

In the more than 2,400 pages of President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law, there are a lot of lists: nutrition labeling requirements, members of various councils and funding for this or that program by a certain fiscal year.

An important list you won’t find buried in the reams of legalese under review by the Supreme Court today: Members of Congress whose vote for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act cost them their job.

About two-thirds of Democratic Members who lost in November 2010 voted for the law. This year, Republicans hope they can continue to tie vulnerable incumbents in tossup states and districts to their vote for the unpopular legislation, which would cut about $500 billion from future Medicare spending.

But in 2012, Democrats believe they have a shield to deflect the attacks: House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s controversial budget, which would fundamentally change the way older Americans interact with popular Medicare program.

“Republicans want to end the Medicare guarantee,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said recently in a statement distilling the Democrats’ argument against Members who have voted in favor of the Wisconsin Republican’s budget.

That’s a message that many top Democratic strategists believe will insulate vulnerable Democratic incumbents from attacks on Medicare cuts in the health care law.

Insulated or not, expect Republicans to hammer home Obamacare attacks. And the messaging won’t just be on Medicare cuts and the “massive government takeover of health care” but will also focus on a key part of the law — the Independent Payment Advisory Board. That panel of 15 unelected experts will make “recommendations to reduce the Medicare per capita growth rate,” according to the law.

Republicans will say the IPAB is a board “that can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments,” as an ad from the 60 Plus Association said recently.

Top strategists dismissed that line of attack as hooey.

“C’mon, that is just pure political scare tactics,” said influential Democratic pollster John Anzalone. “There is a bullshit meter with voters, and it’s even higher with seniors. ... I don’t think [that attack] passes the sniff test.”

Democrats point to the actual wording of the law, which prohibits the board from making “any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums.”

Still, the GOP sees the whole health care issue as a winning one.

“None of the things that were terrible about Obamacare [in 2010], are any less terrible today,” GOP consultant Rick Wilson said. “This is the old lesson that a dead fish never smells any better.”

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