As Deborah Ross sharpens her criticisms this week of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s plan for Medicare, the North Carolina Republican incumbent’s office says he’s no longer looking for a vote in Congress on the plan he helped draft four years ago.
Ross has spent much of her time on the campaign trail recently talking about Social Security and Medicare and attacking the plan Burr promoted in 2012 with former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Ross’ two TV campaign ads in North Carolina so far directly attack incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who is running for a third term.
On Wednesday, Ross’ campaign released its second TV ad in North Carolina, highlighting the Burr-Coburn plan, and calling it a move to “privatize Medicare.” Ross charges that Burr’s proposal – dubbed the Senior’s Choice Act – would change Medicare in a way that would benefit insurance companies who have donated to Burr’s campaigns and hurt senior citizens through reduced quality and higher costs.
Burr’s office countered that the Burr-Coburn proposal would have particularly benefited low-income seniors and would have capped out-of-pocket costs for Medicare patients, according to a statement sent to McClatchy on Wednesday.
Central tenets of the plan called for gradually raising the retirement age to 67 and allowing seniors to use their Medicare benefits toward choosing new health plans with private insurers, while keeping traditional Medicare options available. Giving seniors that choice would be similar to existing options under Medicare Advantage, Burr’s office said.
However, Burr no longer plans to introduce the proposal formally as a bill, said Becca Glover Watkins, his Senate spokeswoman.
“Senator Burr continues to believe that we have a moral obligation to strengthen and improve Medicare for seniors today and in the future. To be clear, the biggest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, which is diverting hundreds of billions of dollars from the Medicare program to pay for other government programs,” Watkins said in an email statement.
She did not give a reason the plan won’t go forward. Coburn retired in January 2015.
Watkins called Ross’ attack “conjecture,” saying Burr’s interest in improving Medicare for seniors is “driven by what is best for his constituents,” not insurance companies or campaign donors.
Like a typical Washington politician, Senator Burr is trying to cover his tracks now that election season is here.
Cole Leiter, Ross campaign spokesman
That Burr is no longer pushing his Medicare plan did not deter Ross’ campaign Wednesday.
“Like a typical Washington politician, Senator Burr is trying to cover his tracks now that election season is here – but he can't have it both ways,” said Cole Leiter, Ross’ campaign spokesman.
Ross’ new TV ad is the second she’s run in North Carolina, and both feature specific attacks on Burr. Burr’s campaign ads so far have not directly attacked Ross.
Leiter said the campaign was on the road regularly, with Ross “introducing herself to voters one at a time.” The attacks on Burr’s Medicare plan are warranted, Leiter said, because the senator has taken more than $1 million in campaign donations from the insurance industry.
Burr’s campaign issued a statement in response to Ross’ new ad saying she has a “dangerous record as the top lobbyist” for the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in North Carolina.