In new online ad campaign, Rick Scott hits an old foe: Obamacare's Medicare cuts

Miami HeraldFebruary 26, 2014 

Gov. Rick Scott is kickstarting an online ad campaign that hits an old, but target-rich, opponent: Obamacare.

In a testimonial-style video geared toward the elderly (women over 60 are the likeliest of all voters in Florida), Scott talks about the state’s seniors and highlights the cuts and reductions in Medicare Advantage spending under the Affordable Care Act.

“Seniors retire based on a belief that they’re going to have a healthcare system that’s going to be there,” Scott says in the 30-second clip, which is paid for by his campaign and appears on Facebook. “These Medicare cuts that the president has caused are the wrong thing for Florida seniors.”

The Florida Democratic Party issued a blistering response pointing out that Scott once led the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, which was socked with a record Medicare-fraud fine of $1.7 billion.

“He lost the right to accuse Democrats of raiding Medicare when he oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the nation’s history,” Democratic party spokesman Joshua Karp said in a statement.

“The fact is that Medicare advantage was supposed to save taxpayers’ money, and now it’s costing them more than classic Medicare,” Karp said. “The savings in the new health care law are being invested right back into our health care.

While Democrats and some analysts also dispute the severity of the cuts on services, there’s one politician who once shared Scott’s opinion about Medicare Advantage’s reductions in Obamacare: Charlie Crist, the former Republican-turned-independent governor, who is now running as a Democrat against Scott for his old job back.

“I would have voted against the bill because of unacceptable provisions like the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program,” Crist said in 2010.

Crist now supports Obama and Obamacare.

As the cuts go into effect, Republicans nationwide are zeroing in on Medicare Advantage, which is part of federal program but managed by private insurers. Scott’s team on Monday issued a press statement about the issue after he joined other governors in a meeting with President Obama.

In pressing the criticism of Obamacare, Scott is also on familiar ground.

Before he ran for governor, the once-little-known businessman founded his own political group, Conservatives for Patients Rights, to fight the president’s healthcare proposal when it first started in 2009. He was also vocal in opposing Hillarycare in the 1990s.

The nucleus of the CPR group became Scott’s successful campaign in 2010, a conservative-wave year when Republicans harnessed anti-Obamacare sentiment, fueled by seniors’ concerns over Medicare.

Obama overcame the law’s unpopularity in 2012, and successfully pitched it to Hispanics in Spanish-language ads. But the botched rollout last year seriously wounded the program’s reputation and it remains less popular than popular in most state and national polls.

Polls indicate Crist is better favored than Scott right now in Florida. But Scott polls better than Obama. The last Quinnipiac University survey a month ago found 41 percent approved of the way the governor handles his job, while 49 percent disapproved. That’s an index of -8 points. Obama’s index: -11 (42-53 percent).

Another poll plus for attacking Obamacare: It helps Scott shore up his Republican base. Right now, Crist gets as much as double the crossover voters that Scott does.

The more money Scott pumps in, the faster those Republicans are expected to come home, thereby narrowing the gap with Crist.

Scott, who has raised about $31 million since the end of his last election, spent about $4.3 million and has $27 million in the bank. He hopes to spend as much as $100 million.

Crist wants to have at least half of what Scott spends. He has raised about $5.4 million and spend $518,000 since announcing his bid in early November. He has about $4.8 million on hand.

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