Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, apparently thinks that the election of Donald Trump paves the way not only for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but for the demolition of Medicare.
Medicare has been the deliverance of a generation of senior citizens. It has saved millions of us from destitution even as we have paid our way via Social Security benefit deductions for the best health insurance plan in American history. In my own case -- having been almost three years along now a prostate cancer patient -- I have not had to choose between poverty and death, in that order.
My oncologist continues to think that I will live a normally long life of an otherwise healthy male because of the treatment she has prescribed for me along with quarterly bone and body scans. My pension as a senior-status priest of the Episcopal Church, while modest, does come with a fine Medicare supplement. By itself, though, it would be profoundly insufficient to cover the cost of my treatment. Without Medicare, I would quite possibly be dead and, as Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge put it, have helped to "decrease the surplus population."/1
That calls to mind another of my literary heroes -- to be guessed by you, dear reader.
Hero No. 2 would say that Speaker Ryan, scurrying to make himself popular with the stern patriots in his legislative chamber, has promised that the Medicare we know -- of which all citizens of Canada and many European countries happily know some version -- will be privatized with limited cash handouts given to Social Security beneficiaries.
They in turn will be referred to for-profit insurance companies to buy their policies. Soon will come your call answered laconically by a bored shoe clerk after 65 minutes of being on hold, who will tell you that whatever you had done -- like having a cancerous tumor removed from your whatever -- will not be covered. And, oh yes, have a nice day.
And think of the bonanza that ending the Medicare to which we have been accustomed would bring to the congressional budget-bargaining discussions. What a windfall in tax reductions for the already well-off could result if the big, bad government no longer had to fork over billions a year to pay doctor and hospital bills for oldsters subsisting on Social Security until that rug is pulled out from under them. Perhaps coming soon to a theater near you.
The other losers would be the owners of those awful places in which the no-longer-useful elderly are placed because taking care of them at home is no fun. Letting them succumb to whatever ailments might overtake them would save a lot of money. Problem solved.
And anyway, doesn't the Bible tell us that "the days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow/2" -- surely meaning that God is done with us at 70 or so? Why buck the Man Upstairs? Why not spare our elderly from the labour and sorrow of getting older than God wills? I mean, really, people.
As has been suggested, why continue to enrich nursing home magnates? Let them turn their charnel houses into cheap apartments and charge outlandish rent. Or they could take their millions already sucked from Medicare and Medicaid and invest them in one of Donald Trump's business ventures, seeing that he'll soon be the President of the United States for a spell. Good bet, to be sure.
In any event, Medicare is a tool of socialism, which in reality, is a Communist ploy to weaken the financial structure of the America that's on its way to being great again. Let's for God's sake not stand in the way of that! Anyway, the Bible also says, "God helps them that helps themselves."/3
End of satire.
Even though their craggy faces do not appear high on Mt. Rushmore, I can sense the countenance of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and that of Lyndon Baines Johnson gazing down upon the country they served as President. Both gave America promise and hope -- Roosevelt with Social Security, Johnson with Medicare. Together those federal programs have given getting older a lot more respect.
We who are in our late septuagenarian years began paying our way in the former with every paycheck that came to us over as many as 60 years and to the latter through deductions from our monthly Social Security checks for the past dozen or so years. For many of us who never made much money due to the career paths we chose -- or which chose us -- both the former and the latter have contributed to a relatively peaceful retirement and older age. Most of us don't have much, but we have enough -- and enough to share because we think that's how life should work.
We do not consider Social Security and Medicare to be entitlements. We are entitled to nothing that we did not earn, even as our flight paid our parents' Social Security and our kids are paying ours. So many of us pay so little for Medicare precisely because there are so many of us paying into it. We have not asked for and have not taken something for nothing. To manage the program wisely for the long term, our Medicare deductions could be increased by a few dollars a month, perhaps matched by a bit of tax revenue from the coffers of the fabulously rich 1%. From each according to her/his ability; to each according to her/his need.
Meanwhile, we'd like it a lot if Speaker Ryan and his colleagues would refrain from tearing down a sound and needed structure and calling the process "reform." Far from reform, it would be grand larceny. It would rob the now-healthy of their health care and therefore of their health.
1/ A Christmas Carol. London, G.B. Chapman & Hall. 1843. 14
2/ Psalm 90:10
3/ The Bible says no such thing.
Copyright 2016 Harry T. Cook. All rights reserved. This article may not be used or reproduced without proper credit.