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Window to Washington

An inside-the-beltway look at the legislative and regulatory process.
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By Jessica Zigmond and Rich Daly

Blog: Medicare debate clouds announcement of initiative to tout reform benefits

By Rich Daly
10:15 am, Aug. 16

The ever-growing shadow of the Nov. 6 presidential election officially reached HHS yesterday. In a call with reporters announcing what amounts to a nationwide campaign to get pharmacies to distribute pamphlets outlining new ACA-created Medicare benefits, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took a little political detour.

Following a familiar litany of the various popular provisions of the 2010 healthcare overhaul, Sebelius launched into an aggressive attack on the Medicare changes included in the last two House-passed budgets and authored by newly named Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

“The House Republican budget would roll back all of these new benefits and protections that I have just outlined and it would end Medicare as we know it by replacing the guaranteed benefits that have been Medicare's defining feature for over 45 years with a voucher that wouldn't cover the full cost of health insurance,” Sebelius said.

Sebelius' other rips on the Ryan “scheme” included the charge that it would result in “gutting” Medicare.

The attack was so out of place during the usually dry HHS media calls that a reporter asked if the entire initiative was launched in wake of last Saturday's pick of Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate.

“This partnership has been in works for quite a while and as has our announcement of it,” Erin Shields, Sebelius' spokeswoman said before ending the call.

But Medicare and changes it will undergo through the healthcare law or could undergo through the Ryan plan have dominated the campaign in the days since his pick. So Wednesday's politically charged policy announcement may soon become less an anomaly and more the norm.

You can follow Rich Daly on Twitter @MHRDaly.

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