Medicare

A constituent told me he got a phone call from the President! 

 Well, it turns out it was only a robocall . But the robot used the voice of the President to claim that “…the radical liberal Democrats are trying to…take away seniors’ Medicare.”

 I guess the President didn’t meet too many East Tennessee Democrats when he visited our region.  East Tennessee Democrats are more like what Republicans used to be. Far from radical and liberal we actually promote fiscal responsibility that is currently lacking.

 Sometimes hypocrisy is amusing. There can be humor when one side accuses the other side of what it is doing itself. But in the case of Medicare, too much is at stake to laugh.

 That’s why it’s not even  a little funny when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests cutting Social Security and Medicare to pay for the budget deficit caused by last year’s tax bill. At least Senator McConnell no longer claims that the tax cuts will pay for themselves.

 I do want to make sure that East Tennesseans understand that the tax cut for the median income in our area was $130 or less, that these cuts are temporary, and that they have already been washed away by increased prices caused by the President’s trade war.  Those East Tennesseans who own private jets, however, can now deduct the cost of the private jet from their income taxes.  That is not most of us.  Many East Tennesseans are, however, on Medicare and most of the rest of us hope to live long enough to be on Medicare someday.

 Mr.  McConnell calls Medicare an “entitlement.” That choice of words makes people who participate in the program sound selfish, like they are expecting and receiving something they don’t deserve, doesn’t it?  Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Medicare, like Social Security, is a contract and the benefits are earned and paid for with payroll taxes – taxes that don’t apply over a certain income level and that aren’t paid at all by billionaires whose money comes from investments rather than labor. The only “entitlement” I see is the economic cruelty and cynicism of politicians who want to pay for lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy by cutting benefits earned over a lifetime of work.

 Medicare already spends six to ten times less on administrative costs than do private-sector insurance companies. But in other areas, there is unnecessary cost. However, instead of taking an axe to Medicare, I think we should get serious  and smart about giving Medicare the tools it needs to get the most for our money. To give just one example: how does it make sense to have a law that forbids price negotiations between Medicare and pharmaceutical manufacturers? Of course profits that are earned are what makes our economy work, but this law guarantees profits that are not earned. (“Entitlement” anyone?) The results are ridiculous. On average, the same medicines cost Americans three times what is paid in Great Britain. This needs to end. We can do a better job fulfilling promises to our citizens if we have the courage to stop giving unearned windfalls to a few pharmaceutical companies.

 If you agree, then let’s act together to protect Medicare by voting for Responsible Change. Our senior citizens are entitled to have our nation keep the promises made to them. We just have to have the courage to spend money on patients instead of giving unearned boondoggles to Big Pharma.