To Healthcare and Happiness

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On the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s passage, the Staten Island Democrats celebrated outside the New Dorp office of Rep. Michael Grimm.  But Grimm, a Republican, celebrated his vote to repeal the healthcare bill.

“What Obamacare does is expand the federal government’s authority, add to the national debt, and limit the freedom of Americans to choose and keep the plan they want,” Grimm said in a statement. “Obamacare must be overturned and that is why I voted to repeal it.”

Ever since Grimm burst onto the Republican political establishment in Staten Island and Brooklyn, the healthcare reform package has served as his main piñata.  And while the S.I. Dems offered ten reasons why Grimm should stop battering the bill, he has three reasons for busting it open.  The first: senior citizens.

Grimm’s second largest source of individual campaign contributions came from retired individuals, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  And Grimm has returned the favor heartily, citing the potential backlash on seniors in much of his anti-ACA rhetoric.

“The most hurtful part of this law is the heartless cuts to Medicare,” said Grimm on his campaign website, “which impact both the seniors of Brooklyn and Staten Island and the hospitals which serve them.”

And many seniors seem to believe that as well.  A poll conducted by Extend Health revealed that 61 percent of seniors thought the healthcare reform bill weakened Medicare.  That number is likely higher in Grimm’s district.  Grimm’s predecessor, Michael McMahon, estimated that the same percentage of letters, calls and e-mails his office received during the debate were similarly negative about the bill.

In addition to weakening Medicare, Grimm says the healthcare bill will deny retirees their prescription drug coverage.  But an analysis conducted by Democrats on the Energy and Commerce committee found that repealing the bill would increase prescription drug costs for 9,600 seniors, deny new preventive care benefits to 102,000 seniors, and increase the costs of early retiree coverage for up to 10,700 early retirees.  And the 18,000 of Grimm’s constituents who are currently uninsured would remain so.

Still, Grimm claims to have an audience as large as it is disgruntled.  He cites the southwest portion of Brooklyn, which includes areas in his district, as the area with the most senior citizens in the country.  Individuals older than 55 years old represent nearly a quarter of his constituents, according to the American Community Survey.

So next time Grimm swings by the V.F.W. Hall or the Rotarian club, it may pay to demonize “Obamacare.”  Literally.

This is the first article in a series.


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