A coalition of liberal/progressive groups has waded into the 2012 Ohio U.S. Senate race to warn hands off Medicare and cites a poll showing public opinion is on their side.
Republicans said the poll misrepresents the Medicare proposal advocated by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, and adopted by the Republican-controlled House.
The poll by Public Policy Polling asked 1,000 Ohio voters: "In order to reduce the national debt, would you support or oppose cutting spending on Medicare, which is the government health insurance program for the elderly?"
The respondents split 76 percent opposed to 20 percent in support.
The poll was done in states with Democratic senators up for re-election in 2012, which includes Ohio with Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown.
"This polling shows that Democratic incumbents facing re-election in 2012 will have overwhelming support if they defend Medicare and Medicaid -- and will have serious problems if they vote to cut either program in any way," said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, one of four groups that sponsored the poll. The others were MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, and Credo Action.
The House passed the GOP plan to privatize Medicare and shift Medicaid costs to the states last month on a party-line vote.
Other polls have found similar resistance to any proposal to curtail Medicare. An Associated Press poll released this week reported that 54 percent of respondents said it is possible to balance the federal budget without cutting spending for Medicare.
The PPP poll had a margin of error of up to 3.1 percent and was conducted in late April. Forty-three percent of the respondents identified themselves as Democrats, 33 percent as Republicans, and 24 percent as independents.
Brittany Bramell, a spokesman for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), said the Ryan plan saves Medicare, while the Democratic plan is to do nothing. "This poll has no application to the GOP budget plan, because the GOP budget doesn't cut spending on Medicare. Under the Republican plan, spending on Medicare increases every year," she said. She said the Democratic plan "condemns Medicare to bankruptcy."
Kevin Coughlin, a former state senator and a candidate for the Republican nomination to run against Mr. Brown, said the claim that the Ryan plan eliminates Medicare is a scare tactic.
"The Ryan budget is an important conversation starter about entitlements and getting control of our government. For people over 55, it proposes no changes whatsoever. For younger people, it makes adjustments to ensure the program is sustainable," Mr. Coughlin said.
Neither of the other two Republican senatorial candidates, state Treasurer Josh Mandel and former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, responded to questions from The Blade.
Senator Brown blasted the Republican plan as a vehicle for giving tax cuts to the wealthy.
"The House Republican budget for fiscal year 2012 would end Medicare as we know it and throw seniors into the private market with no more than an insufficient voucher to offset the rising cost of private health insurance," Mr. Brown said in a prepared statement.
He wrote a letter co-signed by 49 other senators attacking any effort to "dismantle" Medicare.
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