Why Medicare Expansion is Wrong

by | Nov 22, 2003

Adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare, as Congress is poised to do, is merely more socialism --- it will neither help seniors nor is its passage likely to gain their votes.

Adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare, as Congress is poised to do, is merely more socialism — it will neither help seniors nor is its passage likely to gain their votes.

First, some facts: the GOP-controlled Congress and president are seeking subsidies for one of the richest generations in human history. Seniors are generally more active, lively and prosperous than previous generations. Their progress is marked by rising life expectancy and documented in countless articles about their vacations and whether to refinance their second homes. America¹s seniors have worked hard, paid into Medicare and they deserve the good life — and it *is* a good life for most of them. But few, if any, seniors must choose between their medications and their meals.

In practical terms, the plan promises to render Medicare totally incoherent. There are new limits, deductibles and something called a donut hole that will make getting a prescription much more difficult. GOP leaders, like their nemesis, Hillary Clinton, concocted their government health plan in secret, refusing to divulge details, but this much is known: many, if not most, retired persons are likely to lose their current drug benefits, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Seniors will be pushed into HMOs. The program will cost at least $ 380 billion.

Politically, the President insists that there is huge demand for prescription drug coverage among seniors — and the President is wrong. Most polls show that, the more seniors know about the plan, the less they like it. A recent New York Times/CBS News Poll showed that Bush¹s popularity among seniors has plunged 22 percent since he proposed expanding Medicare. As Jack Banister, a retiree in Indiana who supports Bush, told the New York

Times: “I’d sure like them to leave the prescription drug thing alone. A lot of us have worked all our lives to prepare ourselves for retirement. And the federal government coming in is likely to screw that all up.”

In Florida, one enterprising newspaper reporter applied the plan to several seniors: a 71-year-old would see her share of her prescription bills rise from $800 a year under her company coverage to $3,475 under Medicare expansion — another senior, who takes drugs for blood pressure, joint pain and stomach ills, would pay $1,000 more and another would pay $4,300 a year for drugs that now cost him $700 a year.

Republicans have completely accepted the moral premise of socialism. Conservatives, particularly Rep. Paul Ryan, (R, WI) and Sen. Don Nickles (R, OK), have embraced the plan¹s provision to force the rich — really, the middle class — to pay more for Medicare *because* they are rich. As defenders of the right to make money, Republicans, led by Bush, are pathetic.

Those who support Medicare expansion because the bill contains one decent provision — expanding medical savings accounts (MSAs) — are merely rationalizing the welfare state. The bill¹s other supporters — the AMA, the American Hospital Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the pharmaceutical trade association, and AARP, which sells health plans to its members, can not be taken seriously. Because they believe that making money means seeking favors from the government, not competing in a free market, they are looking for a handout, an especially sad spectacle that philosopher Ayn Rand properly described as the sanction of the victim.

America’s health care financing system is uniquely complicated — it is neither socialism nor capitalism and it is much closer to socialism. The tax code punishes the individual who chooses not to depend on a corporation or the government to pay for health care, which, due to huge Medicare and Medicaid expenditures, is becoming more expensive. Increasing Medicare¹s expenditures will make matters worse.

The backlash to expanding Medicare has not yet begun; seniors will not like paying more for less control over their health care. It will not work. And, because it punishes people for making money, robs retired persons of their benefits and encourages the fallacy that health care is a right, adding drug subsidies to Medicare is an injustice to every American.

Scott Holleran's writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Classic Chicago, and The Advocate. The cultural fellow with Arts for LA interviewed the man who saved Salman Rushdie about his act of heroism and wrote the award-winning “Roberto Clemente in Retrospect” for Pittsburgh Quarterly. Scott Holleran lives in Southern California. Read his fiction at ShortStoriesByScottHolleran.substack.com and read his non-fiction at ScottHolleran.substack.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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