Hip-hop Republican Michael Steele has a big piece out today outlining why Republicans should love and protect Medicare, at least for now. And while I guess it's pretty gangster to get your op-ed in the Washington Post, I can't say I admire this guy's flow.
Sure, he offhandedly admits that Medicare's not in great shape, but then he says this: "We need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors." Come again? Isn't this already a fundamental element of how Medicare works—by paying for a significant portion of seniors' medical expenses? Steele seems to have adopted the confused-at-best thinking of that now-famous town-hall attendee who told his representative to keep his "government hands off my Medicare."
Steele also opposes Medicare cuts to fund health reform and argues that "we need to outlaw any effort to ration health care based on age" or "dictate the terms of end-of-life care." I don't want the government doing any of those things either, but given the op-ed's starting premise that Medicare is sacred, this sounds suspiciously like an argument that Medicare should serve as American seniors' medical sugar-daddy, indiscriminately shelling out for whatever, whenever.
That's not a recipe for bringing spiraling costs under control; it's a clueless, politically motivated attempt to appease seniors by defending Medicare's awful status quo. Granted, that's not too surprising coming from the same guy who recently shrugged off responsibility for actually understanding health-care reform—"I don't do policy" was his exact phrase—and said that the best way to reform health-care was to let the big industry players write the bill.
None of this is to say that reform critics shouldn't point out the ways in which health care reform proposals might change Medicare for the worse. But doing so doesn't require one to simultaneously defend a bloated, badly designed entitlement.
Reason's Shikha Dalmia wrote about the myth of free-market health care here.
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