Nonsense on health care from the GOP chairman

It took me a few paragraphs to figure out what GOP chairman Michael Steele was getting at in Protecting Our Seniors, his Op-Ed in yesterday’s Washington Post. Near the top he says:

Republicans want reform that should, first, do no harm, especially to our seniors. That is why Republicans support a Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights, which we are introducing today, to ensure that our greatest generation will receive access to quality health care. We also believe that any health-care reform should be fully paid for, but not funded on the backs of our nation’s senior citizens.

It sounds sensible –especially the “first, do no harm” allusion to Hippocrates– but what does he mean exactly? It turns out the whole article is an exercise in subtle fear-mongering with phrases such as:

  • “government-run health-care system”
  • “prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors”
  • “government-run health-care experiment”
  • “government boards”
  • “outlaw any effort to ration health care based on age”
  • “protect our veterans”

It’s obvious that Steele is trying to kill health care reform and preserve the status quo while pretending to be in favor of reform. Senior citizens are the group most in favor of the status quo, and with good reason. There is universal, government sponsored health care for old folks (i.e., Medicare), which is funded by a regressive tax on wage earners.

Everyone who works –including folks who don’t have health insurance– pays 1.65 percent of their income as a Medicare tax. Their employer pays an equal amount. This money goes to fund Medicare –a program open to anyone who meets the age or disability criteria regardless of income or wealth. But it’s actually worse than that because almost half of Medicare is paid for out of general taxation. And to make things even worse, dual-eligible patients (eligible for Medicare and Medicaid) suck down a big portion of the Medicaid budget for nursing home costs that I believe should be counted as part of  Medicare costs.

Meanwhile, under Republican leadership, Medicare got even more generous: adding an outpatient drug benefit and the expensive Medicare Advantage plans.

Steele asserts that seniors should be exempt from any changes, but why shouldn’t we consider inter-generational equity? He argues that seniors are our “greatest generation,” which I assume is a reference to WWII veterans. But it’s baby boomers who are starting to retire now so whatever merit that argument had is losing out.

Let’s face it: seniors receive an inordinate share of government health care spending. That’s why Steele thinks he can get them on his side.

August 25, 2009

4 thoughts on “Nonsense on health care from the GOP chairman”

  1. I guess your showing your Democratic party leanings. Have you posted, say, about Obama stating erroneously that vascular surgeons make $50,000 to amputate leg? If you or I spoke with as much ignorance on this topic as the president, we both would have been laughed out of the room.

  2. if i remember right President Bush wanted to open up the discussion on Social Security and the Democratic arm said loudly no….actually we need to discuss this problem but President Obama has not been very assuring, as is Congress, in the step they are taking in a bureaucratic nightmare. add to this the carbon taxation, it is subsidizing stupidity.

  3. Steele’s sudden interest in protecting Medicare for seniors is a joke. Seniors are being used as pawns. I read through the detailed summary on HR3200 (I defy anyone to read the full bill and tell anyone what’s in it). Seniors actually benefit from the bill. I am one of those lucky seniors who is receiving Medicare benefits that I pay a mere fraction for. Does any Medicare recipient really believe that he or she is paying anything close to what a reasonable premium would be for such a policy. The tiny deduction taken from our checks over the years, add interest, plus the small monthly premiums we pay, doesn’t come close to making up the difference. It disgusts me when I see seniors saying ‘no’ to efforts to insure people who have been left out. People are losing their homes, some are even losing their lives, children die, because families can’t afford health coverage. Many people believe that all children can get covered through Medicaid or CHIPS–not true. My own grandson is uninsured because his mother, a teacher at a low-paying charter school, can’t afford the outrageously expensive dependent coverage for a healthy child. Someone with an average income with a sick child has no hope for coverage unless her employer picks up the tab. Here in Texas, CHIPS covers a family of 2 with an income of around $29,000 or less, income limits vary between states.

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