By Debra Jasper
Columbus Enquirer Bureau
COLUMBUS - Calling it the "lowest form of politics," Democratic candidate for governor Tim Hagan Thursday denounced a Republican direct-mail campaign that warns senior citizens not to trust him.
The flier, paid for by the Ohio Republican Party, says Mr. Hagan has "a radical plan to balance Ohio's budget on the backs of seniors." It also warns that Mr. Hagan would cut $450 million in Medicaid to pay for other programs.
"Seniors can't trust Hagan to protect them," the flier says.
Mr. Hagan said the ad distorts his real plan, which he says would save $450 million in Medicaid costs by reducing the cost of prescription drugs and boosting the Passport program to help more seniors live at home.
Mr. Hagan said he would not cut programs for seniors and noted his drug prescription plan is endorsed by the AARP, the United Way and other groups.
The Democrat said he doesn't have enough money to refute the ad with his own direct-mail campaign. If he did, he said he'd tell seniors that Republican Gov. Bob Taft is the one who protects the special interests.
"He protects the pharmaceutical companies that make you choose between food and medicine," Mr. Hagan said. "That's Bob Taft's record. He doesn't protect seniors."
Orest Holubec, spokesperson for the governor, acknowledged Mr. Taft hasn't ruled out Medicaid cuts if he is re-elected. "The governor has looked at restructuring Medicaid and controlling its growth," he said.
Austin Jenkins, spokesperson for Mr. Hagan, noted the Taft administration considered cuts in Medicaid last spring to erase a $1.25 billion hole in the $44 billion budget.
At the time, Tom Hayes, director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, told lawmakers Ohio could be forced to spend $2 billion more on Medicaid in 2004 and 2005.
Agency officials wrote a memo saying the state could save $45.3 million if it cut payments of ambulance trips, along with dental, vision and chiropractic care.
"Clearly, Bob Taft and his administration have looked at cuts that would directly impact senior care," Mr. Jenkins said. "We're looking to achieve savings through the use of generic drugs and by keeping seniors in their own homes instead of nursing homes."
Mr. Hagan - who is behind in the polls - said he is concentrating on getting Democrats out to vote Tuesday. When asked what his campaign plans are for the last few days, he responded:
"You mean, besides prayer?"
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