Happy Birthday Medicare
At Medicare's 44th Birthday Party, GOP Shows Up Just to Gorge on Cake and Play 'Pin the Blame on the Donkey'
Meg White, BuzzFlash:
Yes, Medicare is 44 years old today, and while that's not exactly a milestone, the political atmosphere in which the celebration takes place this year elevates the importance of this birthday party to symbolic status.
The fact that Medicare got one year older during a historic struggle for comprehensive healthcare reform is something akin to being born on Christmas: Everyone's partying, but you're not sure it's really about you.
Single-payer advocates are holding up Medicare as an example of how government-run healthcare can work better than private healthcare. "Public option" proponents point out how Medicare functions as a partial competitor with private plans as evidence that such an option should exist for everyone.
Such arguments may be a bit opportunistic, but at least they make some logical sense. The fact that the GOP is trying to use the occasion of Medicare's birthday to insist on the destruction of heathcare reform, on the other hand, is both opportunistic and nonsensically hypocritical.
Much like their crusade against the popular Social Security program, the GOP has always been anti-Medicare. Think Progress' Wonk Room compiled a list of prominent Republicans such as Ronald Reagan who opposed Medicare's creation 44 years ago by frightening people over "socialized medicine" and rationing. Hmmm, sound familiar?
But, due to the overwhelming popularity of Medicare, the argument that it should be dismantled is becoming tougher to make. Not only is Medicare popular, but it seems to actually work. Again from the Wonk Room:Since 1965, "the health of the elderly population has improved, as measured by both longevity and functional status." In fact, according to a study from Health Affairs, life expectancy at age 65 increased from 14.3 years in 1960 to 17.8 years in 1998 and the chronically disabled elderly population declined from 24.9 percent in 1982 to 21.3 percent in 1994."So, if it works and people like it, how is the GOP using Medicare to campaign against healthcare reform? Easy: They're arguing that Obama is going to pay for reform by cutting Medicare.
Prior to Medicare, "about one-half of America's seniors did not have hospital insurance," "more than one in four elderly were estimated to go without medical care due to cost concerns," and one in three seniors were living in poverty. Today, nearly all seniors have access to affordable health care and only about 14 percent of seniors are below the poverty line.
Obama said this week that he would not make cuts or changes to Medicare, but that he wanted to make it more efficient. But that doesn't stop the GOP from stoking the fear seniors have over what would happen if they lost Medicare, and connecting it with healthcare reforms now on the table.
Granted, there is a good reason people are afraid of Medicare disappearing: Republicans have been threatening to kill it for decades. They've suggested cutting funding and/or privatizing Medicare pretty much since it began. Now, all of the sudden, they are great defenders of the program.
Read the entire article for more.
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Labels: health care