06/06/2011 03:42 pm ET | Updated Aug 06, 2011

Progressives' Last Chance to Save Medicaid: Upshot of Ominous New Politico Report

Who is ringing the alarm on Medicaid in a way that will make Congress pay attention?

Outside of some blogging at,  the fate of Medicaid in the current budget fight has been a  low profile priority among most broader liberal groups; health care advocacy groups haven't mobilized large-scale organizing or a high-profile ad campaign to rival the political concerns over Medicare,  and, as has become increasingly obvious,  Democratic leaders and the White House are "silent" on Medicaid.

Health advocacy groups could form alliances with rapid-fire response liberal organizations like Adam Greens' PCCC/Bold Progressives or learn from that organization's successes, but that's apparently not happening either. Where are there signs of mass mobilization, widespread email alerts across the liberal spectrum, and high-profile TV and web ads over Medicaid?

Here are the most salient highlights of the Politico story on Democrats' reluctance to speak out on Medicare:

Yet, for all the Democrats’ posturing and campaigning against Republican plans for Medicare, the GOP budget actually makes more immediate and deeper cuts to Medicaid. But Democrats haven’t been blasting the GOP Medicaid plan with nearly the same fervor, even though Republicans would cut about $750 billion from the program during the next decade and end the guaranteed federal match for states...

As Democrats continue to hammer home the Medicare message — and promise to make it a central campaign issue in 2012 — staffers for leading House and Senate Democrats in a closed-door meeting last week urged Medicaid advocates to get their message out. The underlying message, according to advocates who attended the meeting, is that congressional Democrats would rather let outside groups do the heavy lifting on Medicaid.

The deciding question over the next few weeks is whether broad-based liberal groups, labor and health advocacy organizations step up to do that heavy lifting with grass-roots organizing and aggressive messaging. One sign that progressives and reformers are willing to fight hard to protect Medicaid: When the powerful and influential AARP representing seniors enters the fray in a dramatic, obvious way by placing ads and mobilizing their millions of members. As of this week, there doesn't even seem to be any clear-cut, front-page section of their website flagging the need for members to take action to save Medicaid. Yet about 40% of long-term nursing care is paid for by Medicaid.

Without the AARP's high-profile involvement, the Republicans and compromise-prone Democrats are likely going to get their way to cap Medicaid spending.