Owens works the senior vote in the North Country

Aug 25, 2012

Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) is making Medicare a big issue in his race with Republican Matt Doheny.

Senior citizens vote at higher rates than the rest of the population.  So they’ll be key to the eventual winner of the North Country’s 21st Congressional district.  And issues important to seniors, like health care law and Medicare, will take front stage until November.

Owens’ campaign has been ratcheting up the debate with Doheny on Medicare.

At a gathering of senior citizens in St. Lawrence County called "Seniorama," almost every political candidate had a table here, manned by staffers.  Republican Matt Doheny’s wife worked the room.  Congressman Bill Owens came himself.

He criticized a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system.

"You’re pushing the cost to seniors," Owens said. "You’re not actually reducing the cost of what Medicare is spending.  And my view is we should be focused on reducing what Medicare is spending and also trying to get better health care outcomes for seniors."

Ever since Paul Ryan jumped into the presidential race as Mitt Romney’s choice for vice-president, Democrats nationally - and Owens regionally – have been trying to make Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system a major issue. Owens has been trying to tie Doheny to that plan.

Doheny has yet to outline details on how he’d handle the spiraling costs of Medicare.

Owens has voted to reduce the amount of future growth in Medicare by more than $700 billion.  That was a part of President Obama’s health care law.  Ryan also used that $700 billion in savings in his budget plan.


Owens’ challenger, Republican Matt Doheny, has said he doesn’t support Obama’s health care plan or Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan.  But he’s yet to say what he would do with Medicare, despite repeated media requests for policy details. 

Doheny spokesman Jude Seymour says those details will come later in the campaign.  In a written statement, he said Doheny “believes in keeping our promise to current beneficiaries and soon-to-be recipients while working toward a strong, secure future” for the program.

The Owens campaign has seized on the generalities, running "robocalls" and making a website with a “Doheny Medicare countdown clock” showing how much time has passed since the Republican launched his campaign without Medicare specifics.

All this political maneuvering from both sides doesn’t seem to be on the minds of people at "Seniorama," at least not in a good way.

"They’re all more concerned about whether or not they’ll get elected instead of what the people need," said Steve Parkinson of Chase Mills. "People here are divided over the new health care law, mostly along party lines, like the candidates themselves."