One of the things that I thought I had in common with my free-market allies was our views on Medicare. But some postings from some friends on Facebook (and, because it’s FB, I will respect their privacy and not name them) have made me wonder. Three different friends, two of them prominent national libertarians, linked to this article in the British publication, The Daily Mail. The article, by John Naish, is titled, “Sentenced to death for being old: The NHS denies life-saving treatment to the elderly, as one man’s chilling story reveals.”

The reaction all three friends had was shock: I assume it was at a callous government that lets old people go without government-subsidized health care. One commented, “This is our future if the Affordable Care Act is not defeated in court or repealed.” Given that this person has been an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act, I think it’s safe to say that he disapproves of what the British government did.

What did the British government do? Did it tell elderly people that they could not buy health care? No. They are free to buy health care on a thriving market. What the government did is simply set limits, telling them that they could not get health care subsidized by the government. And because the government is not the Easter bunny (I thought I’d get in the right spirit, given that I’m writing this on Easter Sunday), what this really means is that they could not get health care subsidized by taxpayers. In short, the government said it would not use force against some to pay for the health care of others.

The elderly people in Britain are not treated the same as the elderly and others in Canada. In Britain, you can buy private insurance or buy heath care directly, something that you can’t do for most ailments in Canada.

With Medicare spending growing as it is likely to and becoming probably the main source of future large federal deficits, some federal government sometime will have to rein it in. And one plausible way to do so–not the only plausible way, but one plausible way, nevertheless–will be to ration care, to say, “We will not cover you past a certain age for this or that ailment.” Will that mean that people will die who would have lived had they received care? Yes, it will. But the lesson we should take from this, if we care about freedom and our health, is not to blame the government for being unwilling to tax people for our health care but, rather, to plan for a future in which the government limits our coverage and we pay for our own.