The Tired Argument of Medicare and the Public Option
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Someone, somewhere had to have written and distributed as a talking point that those who complain about the current proposals in Congress that include a so-called public option are misinformed if they also want, or currently have, Medicare, Medicaid or Medicare Advantage.
I seem to remember a few members of Congress retelling the story that “angry” constituents were complaining that, “we don’t want the Government involved in health care, and keep your hands off of my Medicare.” They retold this story as they condescendingly chortled, and implied that such people were either imbeciles, senile, or both. They then turned it into a handy sound bite and talking point to demonstrate that people who were complaining about the public option were ignorant and misinformed.
However, quite the opposite is true. The ignorance lies not in the people making this statement, but the ridiculous interpretation that it was given. Perhaps this is not the most artful way for seniors or other townhall participants to articulate their frustrations, but it is nonetheless a legitimate point of view.
First, the public option and Medicare are not necessarily equivalent. Even if the intention of the public option is defined to be simply allowing for others to choose Medicare or a Medicare-like system of health insurance it does not necessarily follow that someone who has Medicare coverage under current rules is ignorant for not wanting it jeopardized by extending it to more people. The desire to keep from bankrupting Medicare more quickly is not an unreasonable one.
Second, the desire to keep Government from further intrusion into one’s life is not predicated upon holding a position that all current Government programs are wrong-headed and should be eliminated. We live in a mixed economy. We are not strictly capitalist and we are not socialist. The degree to which we allow Government programs and Government intrusion into the private marketplace define the way in which we tilt the economy, and the direction we are headed. It is not unreasonable for someone to believe that we have tilted far enough in the direction of a more socialistic society, and that to the extent that we continue down the road of more Government entitlement we are moving more towards socialism and away from capitalism.
Third, there is the legitimate argument to be made that now is the worst of all possible times to increase entitlements, and that doing so could jeopardize the viability of the current system. With the economy in such bad shape, so many people unemployed, and the staggering increase of the deficit and debt due to the fiscal irresponsibility of both Parties it would seem that now is the absolute worst time possible to extend a Medicare like program to more people. The stimulus bill alone is testament to many that not only is spending out of control, but it is wasteful and ineffective.
As recently as last week, this talking point was used in the Senate. As Senator Grassley complained about Government control of health care, Senator Baucus interrupted him and said, “So you’d like to eliminate Medicare then?” The argument is specious and should be stopped if anyone on the right is to believe that those on the left are arguing from a position of fairness and logic.
You cannot logically hold up Medicare as a shining example of how Government can administer a program well while simultaneously telling us that in order to pay for the new health care bill some $500 to $600 million dollars can be cut by reducing waste and fraud in the system. You simply can’t have it both ways. Furthermore, seniors are increasingly aware that they are the ones whose care will be reduced under current plans.