Deep Breath, Keep It Simple

April 5, 2011 6:09 a.m.

Medicare is such a popular program and people are so against abolishing it that you have to really work hard to flub the debate and obscure what its enemies are trying to do to actually let it get abolished if you’re trying to save it. But congressional Democrats and the White House do seem to be giving it the old college try.

So here goes. What the Republicans are proposing are not cuts. Some level of cuts and/or cost containment in Medicare are necessary because medical inflation is growing so quickly. But these aren’t cuts. They’re using a temporary budget crisis and the need to slow the rate of Medicare costs over long run simply to abolish the program. That’s a bait and switch. It’s the medical side equivalent of the “private accounts” bamboozle that President Bush used in 2005 to try to phase out Social Security.Medicare is a federally-backed health insurance program for seniors. Why seniors? Because seniors as a group are just too sick for the private health care insurance sector to adequately provide coverage for. To rein in costs you can reduce benefits that the program provides or place more cost containment measures in place. Real pain is involved in both. But that’s a legitimate area for debate. Medicare is a long term budget problem, unlike Social Security which isn’t.

Or you can decide just to abolish the program altogether. Just eliminate Medicare in its entirety. This is what Rep. Ryan (R-WI) calls “fixing” Medicare, i.e., getting rid of it. Getting rid of it means abolishing the program and pushing seniors back into the private health insurance system and providing a subsidy to help pay the costs of your average 75 year old’s health care. If costs go up? Well, start saving now.

This is called abolishing Medicare. But you would not hear this from congressional Democrats or the White House. That’s a bald way to put it but it’s the undeniable truth.

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