America's Largest Newspaper Launches a Nasty Attack on Grandma and Grandpa
He tries a similar trick with this grievance:
In 1978, Congress instituted automatic cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security. That's reasonable. But Social Security's method of automatically increasing benefits to successive cohorts of retirees by more than inflation makes less sense. It means that the average worker who retires this year receives a monthly benefit that is about 23% higher after adjusting for inflation than the monthly benefit received by the average worker who retired 20 years ago. The average worker who retires 10 years from now is, in turn, promised an initial benefit at retirement that is 14% higher after adjusting for inflation than the average worker who retires today.
Like every corporation in America that offers its employees private health insurance, Medicare faces spiraling costs. But despite an aging population adding a lot more beneficiaries, health-care costs have grown significantly slower in the Medicare system than it has in the private sector over the life of the program, as this data from the Congressional Budget Office illustrates:
Cogan paints the rise in costs as a product of feckless politicians bowing to their greedy and all-powerful constituents. He complains that “Medicare premiums paid by senior citizens once covered half of the cost of physician and related services. They now cover one-fourth. Copayments once covered nearly 40% of these services' costs. They now cover only 20%.” Premiums haven't decreased; the smaller share reflects the fact that a good portion of those rising costs haven't been passed on to seniors.
Cogan wants to do something about that. Rather than offer suggestions for getting health-care costs under control, he proposes shifting them onto the backs of grandma and grandpa.
To fix Medicare, we must move away from the current system of fee-for-services and low copayments. First and foremost, copayments should be increased significantly. Medicare recipients need to have more skin in the game if they are to become cost-conscious medical consumers.The proposal echoes the GOP's budget plan, under which the Congressional Budget Office says seniors would end up paying almost twice as much out of their own pockets even while the total cost of insurance would end up being higher.
The idea is based on some old-fashioned right-wing boilerplate – turn patients into “consumers,” and the free-market fairies will lower health-care costs with their magic pixie dust. But as Paul Krugman noted, the notion of the savvy consumer falls apart because making health-care “decisions intelligently requires a vast amount of specialized knowledge.”
Furthermore, those decisions often must be made under conditions in which the patient is incapacitated, under severe stress, or needs action immediately, with no time for discussion, let alone comparison shopping....The idea that all this can be reduced to money — that doctors are just “providers” selling services to health care “consumers” — is, well, sickening. And the prevalence of this kind of language is a sign that something has gone very wrong not just with this discussion, but with our society’s values.
Here's a picture that tells a 1,000 words about the true causes of our deficit – please note the absence of Social Security or Medicare.
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America). Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.