In Dems’ ‘Medicare for All’ call, GOP sees ‘20 weapon

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Medicare for All” has become catnip for Democratic presidential candidates and many lawmakers, yet Republicans prepping for next year’s congressional races are also flocking to it — for entirely different reasons.

GOP strategists say they’ll use proposals to expand government-run health insurance to pummel Democrats for plotting to eliminate job-provided coverage, raise taxes and make doctors’ office visits resemble trips to the dreaded Department of Motor Vehicles. If Republicans can define the health care issue on their terms — and they face significant obstacles — that would be a stunning turnabout.

“Democrats have opened the door,” said GOP consultant Glen Bolger.

Democrats made health care their defining 2018 issue as they captured the House and limited losses in a difficult set of Senate races. They denounced Republicans, who tried repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law, of seeking to end coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions. In one monthlong stretch last fall, 6-in-10 ads backing Democratic House candidates focused on health care, according to the nonpartisan Wesleyan Media Project.

Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chairman of the House GOP’s campaign committee, says thanks to Medicare for All, times have changed. “We are going to associate every Democrat running with socialized medicine,” he said.

Republicans intend to tie the proposal to other currents in Democratic politics, including the Green New Deal for fighting climate change, talk President Donald Trump’s impeachment and reparations to slaves’ descendants.

Yet it’s unclear whether Medicare for All will be the tonic GOP tacticians envision.

Elections are 21 months off and will be dominated by Trump and his Democratic presidential rivals, no matter what congressional candidates emphasize. And Republicans start with a disadvantage: A poll by the Pew Research Center found most people preferred Democrats’ to Trump’s handling of health care.

Looking to woo moderate voters, Democrats led by now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., campaigned last year on an agenda that included curbing prescription drug and other medical costs. A total health care overhaul was not featured.

“Nobody has to advise Nancy on the political implications of any policy,” said House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky.