Bush Administration Rolls Out Medicare TV Ad Campaign

The Bush administration launched a $9.5 million television advertising campaign Tuesday to rebut criticism of the new Medicare (search) law.

The ad is to run on network and cable television through March, clustered around soap operas, game shows and news programs. Its theme is "Same Medicare. More Benefits."

The administration is spending another $3.1 million for a newspaper, radio and Internet effort in both English and Spanish.

The 30-second ad addresses some of the major criticism of the law, including assertions that it will force seniors out of traditional Medicare and into managed care plans and that savings will be paltry from drug discount cards and prescription drug insurance starting in 2006.

The administration said last week that the new law, signed by President Bush (search) in December, would cost $534 billion over 10 years, a third more than estimates made public before Congress narrowly approved the legislation.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (search) played the commercial Tuesday for reporters.

Four actors who portray Medicare beneficiaries ask how the law is changing Medicare. "Can I keep my medicare just how it is?" one asks.

The announcer replies: "Yes, you can always keep your same Medicare coverage."

At the end of the ad, another senior says, "So, my Medicare isn't different, it's just more?"

The announcer: "Right."

Several Democratic senators already have criticized as propaganda a two-page flyer that HHS plans to make the basis of a letter to be sent later this month to the 40 million older and disabled Americans who are enrolled in Medicare.

Asked whether he had consulted those Democrats about the accuracy of the ad, Thompson said, "It's accurate."