Yep. It’s still going on. The men and women of this country who have been blessed to live to age 65 are either confused or, more than likely, feel a sense of entitlement about their health insurance. You see, they love their Medicare, but despise the idea of government involvement in health care. I’ve written about this already, as have many others, and it seems that clearing up a misconception hasn’t been sufficient to stop the rallying cries of seniors to “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!”
That leads me to believe one thing: Old folks aren’t confused about Medicare being a government program. On the contrary, they know that it’s a government program, and they love it. No, the issue is one of their feeling entitled to the benefits they enjoy and worrying that if the government extends benefits to others who the elderly consider undeserving, it will mean relinquishing a portion of their entitlement. After all, government can’t do everything, right? There will inevitably be some sort of rationing wherein Congress robs from Peter to pay Paul.
So, why do seniors feel so entitled? Well, one argument would be that they have paid their dues into the system and now they are just getting back what they put in. That sounds plausible until you realize that current Medicare enrollees are receiving far more back in benefits than they ever paid into the system. Is it because they are retired, unable to work, or otherwise hindered by their age from taking care of themselves and securing their own health insurance? Could be. But by that logic, there are plenty of people who we fail to cover in this country, even though they face many similar obstacles. For many, age is a valid excuse, however, while social, environmental, and other contextual factors that plague the non-elderly doesn’t justify help from the government. Some have even argued that latent racism drives the gap between deserving and undeserving.
As Ezra Klein points out, like everything else in politics–the art of who gets what, when, where, and how–this is a matter of two groups: us and them. We like what we have. We don’t want them to take it away from us. We deserve it. They don’t. It is the most selfish, self-centered reasoning imaginable. Honestly, it’s hypocritical. If all of these seniors decrying governmental involvement in health care at town halls are serious, then they ought to tear up their Medicare cards and tell the Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks.” They’ll never do that, though, because you see, they love government involvement in health care as long as it’s on their behalf. They only hate it when it promises to help someone else.