Recently, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., regurgitated his previously rejected plan to turn Medicare into a private insurance voucher program, and it is still part of the GOP budget plans. What is most interesting to me (as an 80-year-old senior) is why today’s seniors object to the plan, since it’s not “our” ox being gored. In fact, to their credit, it was today’s seniors who led the fight to get this terrible plan set back when it was originally proposed (but sadly not forgotten).
For that I offer kudos to my peer group for the reasons below.
In presenting the plan, Ryan and other conservatives consistently made it clear: The plan would not affect today’s seniors who will remain on Medicare. That was an overt attempt to mollify today’s seniors and elicit their support. So then why would today’s seniors fight against a legislation that was not even relevant to them? Here are a few good reasons:
American history is filled with the actions of groups who fight for causes that are more relevant to future generations than their own. In a sense that was part of the American Revolution. It is also true of union activism – with raises and rights that benefit future workers even more than those who battle for them. And it is always true of long-range social programs. To this end, I see today’s seniors as fighting not for a valued benefit (Medicare) that they enjoy, but showing a concern for their children and grandchildren who will face the health care challenges years ahead.
Making a statement
The seniors who now participate in Medicare desired to make a clear statement: This is a plan we like, we appreciate, and we use and is of value. The fact that we will continue to enjoy it also makes a statement to those who follow us, it is something you should have as well. And we will help you retain it.
As owner and manager of my own business for over 50 years, I early on noticed that it is unwise to castigate employees in front of others. The reason: When an employee sees you reaming out another one, the thought goes through their mind: “If this is the way he treats people, I could be next!”
So it is with the Ryan plan to disassemble Medicare. True, it is now only relevant to folks 55 and under, and would not take effect until 10 years from now. But having said that, today’s seniors also fear that once passed, the same people who are trying to eliminate Medicare might also then ramp up the timetable and make it effective sooner — or even now. After all, the ultimate goal of Ryan and his compatriots is to fully privatize health care in America; and given that objective, there is no reason to believe they will not attempt to do it sooner rather than later.
Finally, I like to attribute the best motives to my generation. And that would be that they see certain government programs (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security among them) as being valuable components of a well run, fair, healthy, and secure society. Thus, the retention of Medicare for future generations means a better America now and in the future.
The motives of Ryan and his supporters are transparent. Under the guise of mitigating the deficit, they are attempting to make serious and significant social reforms in our country by eliminating government programs they dislike, and privatizing all that they are able to. Medicare seems an easy target. Yes, it has some fiscal challenges, but the Ryan solution to destroy it in favor of a private program is not only less desirable to seniors but also had it own suspect cost projections; and it did not fly with those whom the program now serves. Instead, today’s seniors bought into the better idea of not only preserving Medicare, but accepting tweaks and changes that would make it more fiscally viable for the future.
The failed plan does have some value for today’s seniors, however, because it gives a quick but highly instructive “peek” at the way some conservatives are striving to reshape America. And most seniors did not like what they saw. To that end, it may be a marker that seniors will use when going to the voting booth in future elections.
Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.
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