More Passengers on the Titanic
By Arnold Kling
here’s an idea: expand Medicare (or create a similar program) to cover every person in America under the age of 21. And then let them keep it as they grow older. In ten years everyone under 31 would be covered. By 2050 at the latest the whole country would be covered — and probably earlier than that once the program reaches a critical mass. Taxes would rise slowly to cover each new cohort, employer healthcare would gradually go away, union contracts would have decades to adjust, and no one would have to give up anything they have now.
This is just watercooler conversation. I’ve given it no serious thought at all. But why not?
One problem is the fact that Medicare already faces tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities. Medicare is the fiscal equivalent of the Titanic, and the unfunded liability is the iceberg toward which it is headed. Those who would advocate adding passengers to the Titanic owe us an explanation of how they are going to deal with the iceberg.
I am really tired of people who think we can “solve” health care by re-arranging how health care is financed, without reducing our extravagant use of procedures that have high costs and low benefits. As far as that goes, Medicare is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Reading things like this makes me wonder whether the Democrats are prepared to govern. They have spent 6 years elevating anyone who can say “Bush is evil. Bush is stupid” to celestial status. There is a large element of childishness that is going to ride in with what I’m guessing will be a new President, a bigger House majority, and a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate.