WASHINGTON — The White House and Democrats are laboring to attract skeptical seniors to their drive to reshape the nation’s health care system, leading some to press the behemoth but reluctant AARP to be more aggressive about backing them.
Polls show people age 65 and up — the only age group that preferred Republican presidential candidate John McCain last November — have also had the most negative views about President Barack Obama’s attempt to overhaul health care. Among that age group, six in 10 disapprove of the job Obama is doing on health care and about the same number oppose the plans being considered in Congress, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll earlier this month.
To help combat that, some Democrats are prodding AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, to explicitly endorse their plans. While actively supporting the overall health care effort and many of Democrats’ specific proposals in an expensive public relations effort, AARP officials are resisting taking partisan sides in the sharply political debate, at least for now.
“Our focus is on issues,” said Nancy Leamond, who oversees AARP’s health care lobbying. “It’s not on any particular political party, and it’s not on any particular member (of Congress) and his or her proposal.”
In the administration’s latest attempt to win over seniors nervous about cuts in Medicare, Vice President Joe Biden visited a Maryland retirement community on Wednesday and told them, “Nobody is going to mess with your benefits. Nobody. All we do is make it better for people on Medicare.”