Wednesday, December 5, 2012

If the Medicare age of eligibility is raised we will have no one to blame but ourselves...


As I noted two days ago, raising the Medicare age is about the worst thing you could do for your friends, family, and local community.  It is a shell game that shifts the burden onto individuals, businesses, and state Medicaid roles.  But does nothing in addressing the health care challenges we face over the long term--in both the public and private sectors.

Sadly Republicans are still pushing the issue as part of a "fiscal cliff deal".

Today the health care economist Austin Frakt has a good rundown on why increasing the Medicare age is not "Entitlement Reform" and that we shouldn't take the bait--This is not Entitlement Reform:

Nobody serious will claim it [raising the eligibility age] fixes Medicare. Of course it does nothing for the broader health system. At best it’s a tweak. Yet some speak of it as if it is the most important thing we can do on entitlements today. Really, it is not.

Moreover, it does nothing, absolutely nothing, to increase the efficiency of Medicare or the health system. Contrary to conventional wisdom and all the political hyperventilating, the real problems of the health system are not its cost to the federal government, but the degree of inefficiency of our spending on it, public and private. Shifting spending from one sector (public) to another (private) and piling additional spending on top of that — which is what raising the Medicare age would do — is orthogonal to efficiency enhancement. It has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Thus, it is not only small potatoes, it is huge distraction. It is not entitlement reform. In time, this will be proven. Mark my words, in no more than one year after a law is passed to raise the Medicare age, Medicare will be back in the spotlight. The words “entitlement reform” will be uttered again, and very soon. Will anyone mean it?

Dean Baker, over at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, notes that part of the problem is media outlets such as the New York Times are not doing their job--NYT Promotes Confusion over Budget:

Politicians often try to obscure unpopular proposals in euphemisms. Reporters are not supposed to help them in this effort.

The NYT failed badly in this respect when it told readers:

"Republicans would demand deep concessions on spending and changes to Medicare and Social Security as a price to raise the debt ceiling a few weeks later."

Of course the Republicans are pushing for cuts to Medicare and Social Security, not generic "changes." They want the government to pay less money and for beneficiaries to get less money. The NYT should be pointing out this fact, not helping Republicans to conceal an agenda that polls consistently show is hugely unpopular even among Republican voters.

Clearly people who should know better an intentionally lying to voters, there are also those who simply aren't doing their homework.  

But I don't think reporters are the only ones to blame, as you too, my dear reader, have an obligation in this social project.  Efforts to scare and manipulate through fear and misinformation are taking place.  But you have a role in choosing to do your homework or stick to whatever "trustworthy" source satisfies your bias and prior commitments.

You can choose to start getting your friends and family engaged on theses issues or you can sit back and let the 1% do all the work--as they are funneling millions of dollars into efforts to slash spending on programs that helps you and your loved ones keep your head above water in times of crisis, programs that create a strong vibrant middle class.  

Between 2007 and 2010, the median net worth of U.S. households fell by 47 percent--the 1% caused this economic crisis and now they are busy working to slash programs more needed than ever.

You have a role to play.  So I join Teamster Nation's call to arms:

To all you hard-working Americans out there: Call 888-979-9806 TODAY and tell your Representative to make no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but end tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent.

I called my Senator's last week and will be calling my Congressman tomorrow.

Can I count on you to do the same? 

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