The RGA ad seeks to Obama-ize another West Virginia issue: the health benefits promised public employees once they retire. Part of Tomblin's legislative agenda this year, the relevant new law embraces a plan to close a funding gap between on-hand assets and the expected cost of these non-pension benefits.
As part of that plan, the legislation outlined a dozen ways that the Public Employees Insurance Agency, which oversees the health benefits, can cut costs. Those include increasing the percentage of prescriptions filled with the generic versions of drugs, coordinating care of enrollees with multiple chronic illnesses, and reducing "excessive use of emergency room visits, imaging services and other drivers of the agency's medical rate of inflation."
"Tomblin's plan puts bureaucrats in charge of seniors' health care, lets them ration health care," the RGA ad says. "Sound familiar?"
Critics of the health-care law have long alleged that it includes rationing. Besides the now-debunked assertion that "death panels" lurk in its recesses, these foes have invoked the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The overhaul allows this yet-to-be-created panel to force Medicare cuts if costs rise beyond certain levels and Congress fails to act. But the law explicitly prohibits IPAB from rationing care, shifting costs to retirees, restricting benefits or raising the Medicare eligibility age.
Jason Haught, chief financial officer of the Public Employees Insurance Agency, does not consider the cost-saving provision of the retiree benefits law to be rationing.
"It didn't really specify anything regarding rationing or how the health-care plan is run," Haught said Friday. He added, "With or without this legislation, our agency is always watching for the over-utilization of the ER. It's an efficient use of the limited resources that the plan has."
As for Maloney's vow to "repeal Obamacare," the Republican was referring to efforts to undo the federal law by seeking Obama's defeat in November, campaign manager Seth Wimer said. Maloney also would have blocked any attempt to carry out the law in West Virginia, Wimer said.
Both Wimer and Tomblin campaign spokesman Chris Stadelman declined to comment specifically on future TV spots. Wimer promised a "fully funded campaign" targeting Tomblin and touting Maloney's proposals, while Stadelman said the governor's ads will contrast the two candidates.
Tomblin narrowly defeated Maloney in a special election last year for an unexpired term. The office is up in November for a full four-year term.