The House GOP voted today to erase Medicare and replace it with “vouchers” that future seniors would use to purchase health insurance on the open market. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the non-partisan office tasked with scoring the financial impact of proposed legislation, the vouchers will cover little more than half the cost of buying coverage comparable to what Medicare provides today.
Get ready to meet more grandmas and grandpas (or maybe great-grandmas and great-grandpas) at the drive-thru asking, “Would you like fries with that?” as they struggle to pay for increased health care costs.
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Once retired, seniors no longer have their employer’s health care coverage, nor the income to pay ever-escalating health insurance premiums on their own. Enter Medicare, a wise and humane government program that deducts a small amount of money out of every person’s paycheck (1.5 percent, or 3 percent for the self-employed) to ensure that they will have adequate medical coverage in their golden years.
When you get older, you need more medical care. It’s simple biology. If you think private health insurance companies are going to offer affordable plans to that demographic, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
The world’s oldest man died this week at age 114. He turned 65 two years before the Medicare program came into being. I shudder to think how the proposed voucher system would have worked for him. When you get to my age (I’m in my early 50s), you look harder at your retirement savings and ponder whether you have enough to last the years you are likely to live. Though few of us are destined to hit 114, taking Medicare out of that equation makes those calculations much more daunting.
During the health reform debate, reform opponents worked seniors into a frenzy with the mantra, “hands off my Medicare,” building public opposition to Obama Administration plans intended to extend the viability of the program further into the future. Now those same opponents slyly spare those age 55 and older in their own “reforms” to keep today’s seniors calm while they cut the legs out from under those of us who might be too busy carting kids to soccer practice and putting food on the supper table to notice.
Critics rightly claim that Medicare faces challenges. Advances in medicine mean we are all living longer, and perhaps the formula that funds it needs to change so a little bit more of our paychecks goes to ensure that we’ll have medical coverage in our old age. I’ll do without that new iPod today to make certain I’ll have those prostrate cancer treatments when I need them.
Maybe I’m turning into an old curmudgeon. Unfortunately, at age 53, I’m not quite old enough to keep the GOP from killing my Medicare. Thank God, literally, that we have a Senate and President in place that won’t allow this to happen.
So now, GOP, I’m telling you: “Hands off my freaking Medicare.” You may be counting on Americans’ short attention spans, but I still will remember what you just did when I visit the polls in 2012.