Thursday, October 4, 2012


One of the issues that I found disturbing in last night's presidential debate related to the responses--from both candidates--regarding the medicare issue.

Governor Romney and his running mate Congressman Ryan have proposed that we go to a voucher system instead of Medicare.  The plan, as they have described it during the campaign, would not affect those who are 55 years or older.  These persons would be grandfathered into the current system.

When asked about the plan last night, Governor Romney asserted again--that this will have no effect on those 55 years or older.  One would assume that this assertion has been stated repeatedly to avoid alienating voters over 55 years who would find the voucher system unattractive.

Simple question: If the proposal is unattractive to those 55 and older, then why would it be attractive to those 54 and younger.

Leaving aside the issues of whether those now 54 will eventually become older and, to some extent, not want to fight with insurance companies over benefits, and whether private insurance companies are likely to provide better service to those infirm than the current system--leaving aside these two issues--there is something that I find fundamentally offensive about the asterisked plan--and about the president's rebuttal.

To assume that 55+ year old voters will find the Romney-Ryan plan palatable because it will not affect them, is to assume that those over 55 do not care about anyone  but themselves.  To extrapolate, it suggests that people are not concerned with any issues unless they are directly affected by them.  I, alas, hit 55 a while back.  Does this mean I should not care about the people who are 54 and younger--or our society as a whole.  Let's see, if I am not black, does that mean I should not care if the civil rights regulations of the 60s were to be repealed.  If I am not poor, should I not care about disproportionate taxation. If I am a man should I not care about women having a right to choose.

The assumption that we should only care about the medicare proposal if we are under 55 is offensive.  President Obama's response was somewhat tongue in cheek when he said that "if you are 54 and under you should be concerned."  What I would have liked to hear the president say is that we do not pass legislation solely because it benefits individuals.  That everyone should listen to his response.  That if you are 15 or 95 you should pay attention to the response.

When I was a kid it was an annual battle to get the community to vote to approve the school budget.  Many residents in our area would argue that they had no kids, or their kids were out of school, so why vote for the school budget.  Well, maybe--assuming the budget does make sense--we should support the schools because we have a commitment to consider our entire society and not just ourselves.

At the core of what bothers me about the voucher system is NOT that it is myopic--though it is (when you are 90 you are not going to want to fight with insurance companies when your knee is killing you and you are too tired from life to fight anymore) what bothers me is that the proponents keep telling the 55 year and older population not to worry. It's not going to affect them.  That is not good enough for this person born in the Truman administration and I am sure it not good enough for a majority of people who have been around the track as many times as I have.    If the current Medicare system is a good plan for us then it should be there for others--our colleagues, children, friends, and strangers.  Neither the Republicans or Democrats seemed to acknowledge this last night.

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