This just in, from AARP and the American Medical Association:
WASHINGTON--As health reform reaches a critical juncture in Congress, AARP and AMA are joining forces to cut through the noise and focus on the benefits of health reform for older Americans who depend on Medicare and the physicians who care for them. Today, AARP and AMA are launching a national television ad that separates fact from fiction and highlights how health reform will improve Medicare by lowering prescription drug costs and making certain that neither government nor insurance bureaucrats come between Medicare patients and their doctors when making important health decisions.
This may sound like just another press release about just another interest group, or groups, launching ads on health care reform. But it's far more important than that. No bloc of voters spooks reform advocates more than senior citizens. The polls have shown seniors to be the most suspicious of reform. And with hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare reductions on the table, confirming those suspicions isn't too hard for the opponents of reform to do.
That's why the White House and its congressional allies have worked so hard to court AARP and AMA (and why, at the end of the day, Congress will do something about the "Sustainable Growth Rate" adjustments to Medicare payments.) Interest group endorsements aren't always as important as they might seem, but veteran political operatives I know all seem to think these two groups really do have a lot of sway over the way seniors think.* Having them vouch for reform goes a long way toward undermining the death panel talk.
*Why? I'm not sure, but it may be that older Americans are from a generation more accustomed to taking political cues from elites and organizations they know.