Monday, August 17, 2009

The Real Enemy

According to Ross Douthet, the real obstacle to health care reform is not Rush Limbaugh, it's........senior citizens!

If the Democratic Party’s attempt at health care reform perishes, senior
citizens will have done it in, not talk-radio listeners and Glenn Beck acolytes.
It’s the skepticism of over-65 Americans that’s dragging support for reform
southward. And it’s their opposition to cost-cutting that makes finding the
money to pay for it so difficult.

That’s because they’re the ones whose benefits are on the chopping
block. At present, Medicare gives its recipients all the benefits of socialized
medicine, with few of the drawbacks. Once you hit 65, the system pays and pays,
without regard for efficiency or cost-effectiveness.

For liberals trying to find the money to make health insurance
universal, these inefficiencies make Medicare an obvious place to wring out
savings. But you can’t blame the elderly if “savings” sound a lot like “cuts.”
When the president talks about shearing waste from Medicare, and empowering an
independent panel to reduce the program’s long-term costs — well, he isn’t
envisioning a world where seniors get worse care, but he’s certainly envisioning
a world in which they receive less of it.

You can understand why Republicans, after decades of being demagogued for proposing even modest entitlement reforms, would relish the chance to turn the tables. But this is a perilous strategy for the right.

Medicare’s price tag, if trends continue, will make a mockery of the idea of limited government. For conservatives, no fiscal cause is more important than curbing this exponential growth. And by fighting health care reform with tactics ripped from Democratic playbooks, and enlisting anxious seniors as foot soldiers, conservatives are setting themselves up to win the battle and lose the longer war.

In this future, somebody will need to stand for the principle that Medicare can’t pay every bill and bless every procedure. Somebody will need to defend the younger generation’s promise (and its pocketbooks). Somebody will need to say “no” to retirees.

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