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Monday, April 04, 2011

Death Panels are starting to sound awfully good right about now
Posted by Jill | 7:41 PM
Think about it: How would you rather check out of this God-forsaken level of reality? Would you rather be in a warm bed somewhere, perhaps lying on sheets nice and warm out of the dryer, with the sun streaming in your window and soft music playing into your room, perhaps with the aroma of peppermint, or fresh bread, or whatever your favorite aroma might be, while a doctor slips a needle into your arm and you wooze into a delightful drowsiness and then unconsciousness, and then another needle containing the drug that stops your heart is administered...or would you prefer to die out in the street, old, sick, and alone, huddling from a bitter wind, because you have no home, no shelter, no food, and no medical care?

I know which one I'd take.

But it's hard to imagine that the GOP will be kind and compassionate enough to offer the elderly the first one, not if the current House majority gets its way:
House Republicans are preparing to introduce a 10-year budget Tuesday that will eliminate Medicare and replace it with a private insurance system that closely resembles the new health care law, and end Medicaid as an entitlement program all together.

This plan, which also will include major restructuring of the tax code and cap discretionary spending, will reduce the deficit by over $4 trillion in 10 years, according to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

Here's what this means if you're elderly, disabled, or poor.

Low-income Medicaid beneficiaries will lose their guaranteed benefits altogether. Currently, Medicaid is jointly financed by the federal government and states, which are required to provide comprehensive health care benefits to people in poverty. Ryan's plan turns the program into block grants for the states -- states get a bunch of cash from the feds and have to make the best of it. For many states, that will mean severe benefit rollbacks.

Seniors, and others on Medicare, would be in a slightly different predicament. Currently seniors 65 and over are guaranteed a defined benefit program: taxpayers finance the system, and the government agrees to pay for seniors' health care services (though seniors have to pitch in too). Ryan's plan would leave that system intact for anybody currently on Medicare, or expecting to be on Medicare within 10 years. For everyone else the program would be radically overhauled. Future beneficiaries would no longer have a single payer system to rely on. Rather, they'd be given a menu of private insurance plans to pick from, and subsidies to help pay their premiums. If those premiums skyrocket, that's on them. If the insurers themselves aren't required to pay for whatever the doctor orders, then the guaranteed benefits will erode.

I'm going to be fifty-six years old this year, so it's possible that I may just sneak in under the wire. But because I'm not a Republican, I don't subscribe to the "I Got Mine And Fuck You" doctrine. I take no comfort or satisfaction in the reality that my friends and colleagues who are in their twenties, thirties, and forties -- or who are fifty-four right now, are going to be consigned to the latter option described above.

It's probably too late to stop this plan -- or something even worse. The executives of major corporations -- the ones whose multimillion dollar annual compensation packages already assure them of that nice warm bed only with no doctor slipping them a needle -- own this country. They own both parties, Democratic and Republican. The Republicans are more expensive whores, because they demand to be paid more to do the billionaires' bidding, whereas the Democrats have long been content to settle for the scraps. But we've already seen what calls for "shared sacrifice" mean -- they mean sacrifice for everyone EXCEPT those who already have more money than they AND their heirs can spend or use in a thousand lifetimes.

I still have a soul. And it grieves me to think of my friends, who simply because of a few short years are going to be left clutching coupons they're supposed to use to buy health insurance that doesn't promise to be there when they need it -- while billionaires continue to rake in ever more cash, because no amount we let them have seems to be enough.

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