Sunday, September 13, 2009

Are seniors at risk in the health care policy debate?

Is there a “geriatric gap” in the health care debate? Are Republican fear-mongerers responsible for it? The “Week in Review” in the New York Times has an article by Adam Nagourney, “Politics and the Age Gap: The ‘don’t mess with Medicare club is a bit exclusive: Its members have it; they’re not embracing change.” The link is here and the original article appeared Sept. 12.

Barack Obama was not as effective with seniors as with younger voters in 2008, and the GOP has been able to perpetuate the idea that seniors will be asked to make more “sacrifices” (all it "rationing" if you must -- we always "ration" care to some extent) because, well, they’ve had their turn already, it seems – as if health care were like calling hands for questions in a forum. (And Obama had said, just before the inauguration, that the road for kicking the can is at a dead end.) And in just the past few days particularly grim predictions about Social Security and Medicare have been renewed, as if both approach a “9/11”. But, in fact, some of the very leading edge life-extending treatment for some seniors probably would not have been available as soon in Britain or Canada – the US “single payer for seniors” system probably is more generous than European systems, at least in making care available. Yes, for cities like Detroit and Buffalo, even Minneapolis, hospital care for Canadian patients is a growth industry. It’s surprising that the GOP is not even more vocal than it is about “family solidarity” as something that helps justify sacrifices for the extremely ill. Outside of a few places (like some columns in the Washington Times), we don’t see that point made so often. It probably will get made more often in the future.

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