After years of Republicans taking shots for proposing changes to Medicare and Social Security, the tables have turned and now “it’s payback time,” said James L. Martin, president of the 60 Plus Association.
Mr. Martin, who runs the conservative seniors group, said Democrats’ health care plan “scares the bejabbers out of seniors,” adding that Democrats and AARP, which endorsed their plan, will face a “senior citizen tsunami.”
“It’s flooding toward the halls [of Congress]. Unless it does subside, I think you’re going to see some real pain at the polls, if you will, come November 2010,” he said. “Seniors have long memories, and they’re concerned about this issue.”
Mr. Martin also said Democrats attacked Republicans for years over plans to overhaul Social Security and Medicare, so it’s fair game for Republicans to shoot back this year over Democrats’ plans to reduce Medicare spending by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade to pay for their health care bills.
“If I’m part of that demagoguery, it’s payback time,” Mr. Martin said. “The Democrats used that and they still do, they pull out the Social Security scare card about every election cycle, and Medicare, too.”
He said Medicare has been around for four decades and today’s seniors paid into the system, so they should get the benefits they’ve been promised.
AARP endorsed House Democrats’ bill Thursday, saying it will help those on Medicare, make insurance more affordable overall and help those in danger of losing coverage because they change jobs or have a pre-existing condition.
“Millions of Americans will start to regain control over their lives,” said A. Barry Rand, AARP’s chief executive.
But Mr. Martin, whose organization regularly clashes with the much bigger AARP, said AARP is a major insurer and has a financial interest in trying to drive out other potential competitors.
He said that’s one reason AARP didn’t object to proposed payment cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, even as other providers were warning enrollees in Medicare Advantage.
Medicare is one of the hot-button issues of the health care debate, and 60 Plus is running ads in some states urging seniors to call senators and oppose Democrats’ plans. He said seniors make great lobbyists.
“A lot of them are at home with not a lot to do,” he said.