The Corner

Nancy Pelosi Has Written an Op-Ed on Medicare

And it is not great.

Start with the fear-mongering open:

The scenario is not so far-fetched: an American worker nears retirement. Her 65th birthday is drawing close. She’s paid into Medicare her entire life, expecting it to be there to cover her health care in her golden years — just like it was for her parents.

She’s worked hard and played by the rules. She’s upheld her end of the bargain, and her children’s and grandchildren’s economic security depends on a strong, sustainable Medicare.

But, when the time comes, she’s faced with a system that’s changed and where the goal posts have moved because Republicans in Congress demanded that the eligibility age for Medicare rise. It was their trophy in the talks on the fiscal cliff — the price they asked seniors to pay before they voted to ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share.

First, raising the eligibility age for Medicare isn’t about arbitrarily stiffing seniors. The principle behind it is that Americans are both living longer and working longer, and that old-age/retirement entitlements should reflect that shift. Second, any plan that could pass both chambers would surely make the change gradually. Pelosi admits as much later in the piece. There simply aren’t going to be any 64-and-a-half-year-olds who wake up to find out that their insurance options have changed overnight. In fact, the data suggests the overwhelming majority of affected seniors would continue to be covered by other means. Last, if the Republicans manage to get this “trophy” it will be because the president of the United States — and the leader of Mrs. Pelosi’s party — said, as recently as today, that he was open to the idea.

After this odd construction –

There’s just one [sic] critical problem: It doesn’t work. It doesn’t have public support. It’s unfair. And it doesn’t lower health expenditures.

– Pelosi reveals the Republican plan to be “an assault on the middle class, seniors — and our future”, a decidedly martial phrase that while used figuratively in this context, could be used somewhat more literally to describe events in Lansing. According to Pelosi, the Republican plan is an assault on all these things because despite the “abstract numbers” that make it “appear” the plan would “save money for the federal government,” in reality “it simply shifts the cost of health care to newly uninsured 65- and 66-year-olds, forcing them to pay more for their care out of their own pockets.”

I’m not sure why Pelosi thinks the two are mutually exclusive. Yes, raising the eligibility age would shift costs from the government to individuals, and yes, that would save the government money. This is a deficit reduction deal we are talking about, madam leader. That’s sort of the point. Speaking of the point of things, Pelosi is dismayed that one place costs might be shifted is onto Obamacare beneficiaries:

It raises premiums for younger Americans who don’t receive insurance through their jobs and who are set to purchase coverage through new insurance exchanges. It asks them to foot the bill to cover the cost of insuring the many 65- and 66-year-olds who would enter the system at the same time.

Here Pelosi neatly summarizes the operating principle of the bill she once passed just to find out what was in it. The ACA is at its core about raising premiums for some Americans to subsidize coverage for other Americans. Shame she just figured that out.


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