The House Republican campaign arm has begun warning voters that Democrats are trying to take away Medicare and abolish the department of Veteran’s Affairs’ health care system, two institutions that conservatives themselves seek to reform.
That’s the message in an email blast the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Victory Fund sent last week. The email pivots off the introduction of a Medicare-for-all bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) which a large chunk of the congressional Democrats—though far from all—have endorsed.
“In case you didn’t know before, we now see it crystal clear what a Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi-led Democratic Congress would introduce: socialized healthcare that has complete control of your doctor, hospitals, and prescriptions,” the email reads. “It could also abolish the V.A. and Medicare!”
The NRCC campaign, which was first hinted at last month, misstates matters. While Sanders’ bill would transition Medicare into a new universal system, it would explicitly keep the VA health care system intact, something that Sanders has repeatedly emphasized. The House version of the bill only calls for the VA system to be re-evaluated after 10 years.
In separate ads being run in specific districts, the NRCC’s attack line is finer-tuned. Facebook ads the committee is running warn voters that a push for single payer would “abolish Medicare Part D and the VA.”
Medicare Part D is the federal government program that was established under the George W. Bush administration to help seniors cover the cost of prescription drugs. Conservatives have bemoaned the cost of that program, which was famously passed without being paid for. They also have repeatedly pushed measures to either privatize or loosen government control over VA health care and to reduce Medicare benefits based on age or income.
That they’re now positioning themselves as defenders of VA care, Medicare Part D and Medicare in general, underscores the popularity of each institution.
“We can’t wait to run ads next year on the fact that Democrats want single payer healthcare that would raise taxes, control your healthcare decisions, and could abolish the VA and Medicare Part D,” said NRCC spokesman Matt Gorman, in a statement to The Daily Beast. “They write themselves. Democrats are being dragged left by the radical wing of the party and that’s a choice that benefits us.”
This is a playbook Republicans have run before. During the 2010 elections, the NRCC repeatedly attacked Democrats over Obamacare’s “cuts” to Medicare—which were actually reductions in future Medicare spending meant to help finance subsidies for health care insurance purchases elsewhere. Those attacks, operatives said, were some of the most potent of the cycle.