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Joe Conason
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Saturday 15 December 2012
Republicans want a privately-funded medical system that preserves profits rather than a system that improves and expands health care, as Medicare has done for almost half a century.

Raising Medicare Age Won’t Save Money but Will Cost Lives

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Raising taxes on the rich alone won't close the deficit or erase the national debt, as Republicans superciliously inform us over and over again. But in their negotiations with the White House to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, congressional Republicans seem obsessed with a change in Medicare eligibility whose budgetary impact (when compared with ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy) is truly negligible — but whose human toll would be immense.

That Republican imperative is to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.

Why do Speaker John Boehner and the Republican majority in the House so badly want to put Medicare out of reach of elders younger than 67? It will be costly to their most loyal voting constituency among older whites. And it won't save much money, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation's latest study — which shows that the estimated $148 billion in savings over 10 years is largely offset by increased insurance costs, lost premiums and higher subsidies that will be paid as a consequence. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers an even more stringent analysis, which shows that raising the eligibility age in fact will result in total costs higher than the putative federal savings — which amount to around $50 billion over 10 years. Contrast that with the savings achieved by ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which amounts to well over $1 trillion during the same period — and it becomes clear which party wants to reduce deficits.

Assuming that the savings are mostly mythical, the only sensible assumption is that Republican politicians and financiers simply hate Medicare, a highly successful and popular federal program that the right has been trying to destroy, with one tactic or another, ever since its establishment in 1965.

They don't really care whether their alleged solutions save money or improve efficiency. They want a privately-funded medical system that preserves profits rather than a system that improves and expands health care, as Medicare has done for almost half a century.

What the Republicans evidently desire most in their "reform" crusade is to exacerbate inequality among the elderly — because that is the only assured outcome of their plans.

The impact of raising the Medicare eligibility age by two years will fall most heavily upon older African-American and other minorities, as they are still known. The projected damage is summarized clearly in a chart posted on Monday by Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post's Wonkblog. The number of uninsured among the elderly will be increased for all groups, but the greatest increase will be among minorities, who will also become more likely to postpone medical care because they lack coverage. The net effect of those changes, to project from what we already know about people who lack of insurance and postpone care, will be earlier deaths and much suffering.

Even more broadly, delaying eligibility is a direct assault on the standard of living of working-class Americans, especially those who have earned their way through physical labor. By age 65, people who have spent decades engaged in hard physical work — such as firefighters, nurses or other first responders, to consider the most obvious examples — are ready to stop working. Medicare is a critical element of their ability to retire, but Washington elites, especially on the right, are obtusely unsympathetic to their conditions.

It is up to the Democrats in Washington, especially President Obama, to protect Americans from such policy proposals, which are economically idiotic and socially inhumane. For there is one objective that the Republicans would certainly achieve if they induce the president to accept, or worse, propose, any such plan: They will discredit his second term before it has begun.

Copyright Creators.com


ABOUT Joe Conason

Joe Conason has written his popular political column for The New York Observer since 1992. He served as the Manhattan Weekly’s executive editor from 1992 to 1997. Since 1998, he has also written a column that is among the most widely read features on Salon.com. Conason is also a senior fellow at The Nation Institute.

I recently became 65 and a

I recently became 65 and a medicare recipient. I just calculated that the cost of my part B insurance (only 10% of my former insurance) plus the significantly higher cost of my drugs under part D of Medicare are about equal to what my drugs and health insurance premiums cost before I switched over to Medicare. So now that I am unemployable - seems my job apps are being trashed in favor of younger candidates - and I don't have an income to pay for insurance premiums and my meds, I am saving nothing by being on Medicare.
This is not to say that Medicare is not extremely valuable rather, the biggest benefit is in the drug company profits.
And the drug companies are huge corporations that can afford to pay six figures to pretty young men and women who go from Dr. office to Dr. office handing out gobs of samples of drugs - a job that requires little ability other than driving a car or hailing a cab and walking and smiling. You don't even have to be able to chew gum while you walk.
My own doctor, I'm proud to report, doesn't even allow drug reps in his office. How much money could drug companies save if they just had a quarterly conference where doctors or nurses could go IF they wanted to avail themselves of free samples and info on newly released medicines.
Let me end my rant by saying I'm sure medicare is subject to abuse and could use some serious scrutiny but no more overhauls and changes that adversely affect those it was meant to care for.

Boris Badenov's picture

Killing the elderly again I

Killing the elderly again I see.
Another suicidal idea by an already dead political party (GOP)

Although it may be unsound to

Although it may be unsound to accuse the bungling "W" of being part of a rightwing conspiracy, the more I hear from the Republicans in Congress salivating over cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, the more I suspect the GOP of having some master plan to gut or destroy Medicare and Social Security because of self-generated hysteria about the deficit.

Think about it for a moment. Bush was supposed to be a conservative, and conservatives were usually advocates of Smaller Government and Balanced Budgets. Yet Bush actually expanded government in his terms in office. And he spent our government into the deepest deficit holes in the nation's history. He started two unpaid wars, one of them (the most costly one, of course) totally unjustified except by his flimsy lies about WMDs. He spent billions destroying the infrastructure of Iraq, then gave no-bid billions to his Halliburton buddies to rebuild what he destroyed. (And they did a half-assed job of that!)

He handed off a failed economy and the biggest trade and budget deficits in our history to his Democratic successor, and guess what? Almost immediately the Republican chorus started chanting about the deficits.

"Oh, the deficits, my God, the deficits! We'll have to cut expenses, that's for sure, and all those 'entitlement' programs will have to be on the table. Oh, the deficits, my God, the deficits...!"

Was this all by accident, or did some Republican conspirators, along with Bonehead Bush, plan all this to get rid of those nasty FDR-LBJ programs?I realize this may attribute more intelligence to the Republicans than they deserve, but let's face it, they can be devious in defense of their billionaire masters.

Whether by accident or design, it should be obvious who these greedy mouthpieces serve. Let's not let them get away with it, but call them out!

A summary of all you need to

A summary of all you need to know about increasing eligibility age:

"Republicans seem obsessed with a change in Medicare eligibility whose budgetary impact (when compared with ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy) is truly negligible . . . . according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation's latest study — which shows that the estimated $148 billion in savings over 10 years. . . .Contrast that with the savings achieved by ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which amounts to well over $1 trillion during the same period . . . .The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers an even more stringent analysis, which shows that raising the eligibility age in fact will result in total costs higher than the putative federal savings — which amount to around $50 billion over 10 years. "

Republicans just hate anything FDR and LBJ. They're still butt-hurt about the New Deal and The Great Society. In fact, they're so irrational about the New Deal and The Great Society they'll do anything to get rid of those programs, even if it cost more tax money in the long run--like passing bills that raise the eligibility age of Medicare to 67.

Moreover, slashing New Deal programs isn't going to stop with raising the age of eligibility for Medicare to 67. Republicans have been attacking any program that helps working class and middle class people since those programs were singed into law. It's their signature, along with trying to teach Biblical ideology in public schools, of which the fight began way back with the scopes trial, and continues on today, along with the denial of canonical science.

STOP BEATING AROUND THE

STOP BEATING AROUND THE BUSH....SMELL THE COFFEE....OUR GOV. LEADERS ARE KILLING US OFF...DROPPING BENE'S IS PART OF THE PLAN...I WOULDN'T WANT TO WASTE MONEY ON OLD PEOPLE I AM TRYING TO KILL OFF SOONER THEN LATER...YOU HAVE TO KILL OFF THE USELESS EATERS FIRST.......YOU ALL NEED TO WAKE UP AN SEE THE MANY GENOCIDE PROGRAMS....GMO FOOD,,,CHEM TRAILS PROGRAM..THE WATER WE DRANK FROM THE TAP...THE VACCINES,,,THE MANY KINDS OF FLU SHOTS....HOLY SHITE,,WAKE UP.AN SMELL THE ARSENIC...........

It's true that there is a

It's true that there is a group of people that have worked in physically demanding jobs most of their lives and are counting on Medicare to give them a measure of relief at the end of their working careers from the expensive employer based healthcare system that has evolved over the past thirty years and has allowed employers to abandon any obligation to reduce healthcare costs for their employees. Programs like employee healthcare savings accounts are a joke as employees are asked to set aside pre-tax money in non-interest bearing accounts for any potential major healthcare problems that will likely cost them thousands of Dollars if such events occur, often more money than they could save in a lifetime at the current wage rates. If they don't use the money by the end of the year, they get a bill from the IRS for income taxes on that saved money. Another joke is the bill that Clinton got passed during his term that forced companies to continue to provide healthcare insurance to laid off employees for up to 24 months under certain circumstances. The catch was that the out of work employ had to pay the full monthly rate for this insurance and not the company subsidized rate that they paid as an employee, tough to do for someone without a paycheck and limited savings.
The fact is that most retired or part time workers that enter Medicare at 66 are in relatively good health and are of little financial burden to the system. As has been the case for decades, the real financial burden on Medicare are those end-of-life costs for elderly patients who require intense 24 hour care in the last weeks of life. As the author of this piece pointed out, this amounts to an overt attack on a social system that requires a large amount of funding to pay for services from the most expensive privately funded for profit healthcare system on the planet. A Conservative element in this country has for years attacked this system to justify a narrow political philosophy that would divert this funding into the pockets of the top one percent who are the Capitalist Masters of the Universe. A plan the Adolph Hitler government put into action in 1939 that resulted in the extermination of thousands of elderly and mentally incompetent citizens of Nazi Germany who were considered Useless Eaters, freeing up funding to German and international corporations and banks that supported the Nazi war effort to smash their detractors and advance the Master Race !

Since when do you think those

Since when do you think those in the decision structures cared about the people? When are we going to learn that their main concern is money. People are seen as appendage to money: if they make money for the 1%, they will do anything to enable them. If they don't, the 1%'s representatives have been either nonchalant, or totally opposed to the people's interest. Nothing is going to change without taking the moneybags money out of politics.

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