On Medicare, Heads in the Sand
Republican strategist Karl Rove joined the ranks of those who shoot themselves in the foot when he tried to dismiss Herman Cain as simply a radio talk show host, totally ignoring Cain’s success in turning big companies from losers to No. 1 winners.
Cain has demonstrated superb leadership qualities and Rove knows it. But foot-shooters don’t seem to learn, and the list grows.
Of course, some politicians are too busy sticking their heads in the sand to shoot themselves in the foot. Those are the ones denying our nearly insurmountable debt and overburdened Medicare costs.
Regrettably, some of this denial is a deliberate attempt to win votes — surely the most un-American reason for sticking your head in the sand or pretending to. This particular vote-getting ploy consists of scaring seniors into thinking they’re going to be treated like aging Eskimos and be cast out to sea on an ice floe.
Let’s set the record straight on Medicare and Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to fix it. First of all, under Ryan’s plan, no senior over 55 would be affected. Period. Any threats to the contrary are out-and-out lies designed to get votes.
Those who pose those threats say all that’s needed to fix Medicare is to raise the taxes of the rich. Would that it were that simple. The political side of Medicare is that the vast majority of Americans (including seven out of 10 tea partiers) want no changes whatsoever in Medicare. The pragmatic facts are that leaving it alone is not an option. Today Medicare eats up more than 15 percent of government spending; in two more decades it will cost more than a third of our economy. We can’t handle those costs. Period. That’s the big problem: Those periods keep popping up.
What then? The first step should be cutting the fat and fraud from the existing program.
When Harry Truman got the first Medicare card, the former president said no American “should ever be abandoned to the indignity of charity or hopeless despair.” Those were admirable intentions. But like most of hell’s pavements, they’ve become lost in the shuffle of too many greedy hands reaching into the golden pot.
Luxury entitlements are not solutions to “hopeless despair.” Expensive power scooters are nice if you can afford them. But when the commercials say “at no cost to you,” they are overlooking the truth that someone has to pick up the tab. That person is the taxpayer, and he can no longer afford it.
As for fraud, that costs Medicare $70 billion a year and should not be tolerated. If that means putting some unscrupulous doctors in jail, so be it.
Getting rid of fraud and luxury item abuse is only the first step. Obamacare is so flawed that even some Democrats are anxious to see it repealed. Ryan’s plan consists of vouchers designed for retirees to buy private insurance policies. It would go a long way toward reducing waste, but it may not be the final answer. It is, however, a better beginning than Obamacare and deserves a non-head-in-the-sand hearing.
Full disclosure: My wife and I each receive benefits from Social Security and Medicare and thus have seats on the 50-yard line of the battle to contain costs. We can see firsthand the spiraling of the costs not only to the country but also to us. Each year we see more and more out-of-pocket costs to our health care, especially with skyrocketing prescription drug payments.
Clearly it is a downhill battle and a warning for future generations of the need for rethinking this entitlement. It is a far cry from even a semblance of “hopeless despair,” but the alarm has sounded that a Medicare status quo is not a viable plan.
You can close your eyes to the dangers of out-of-control government spending. But there’s a downside: With your head in the sand, you can’t smell the flowers.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story