Dear Jack, Katie, Luke, Will, Tess, Elle, and Anthony:
My entire generation owes you an apology. But I can speak only for myself when I say I regret to inform you that you are going to get a hulk of a tax bill by the time you celebrate your 20th birthday.
I know you are still too young to fully understand, but while you are having fun chasing bugs and butterflies, the people who make laws in this country are playing pretend and saying they want to help old folks pay for some of the medication they take to feel better and live longer.
The very awful thing about this is that your Grandpa and Grandma and millions like us don’t need this help … and many of us don’t even want it. About 75 percent of seniors already get medicine paid for with Medigap, Medicaid, Medicare+Choice, public assistance, employee retirement plans, and discount drug programs sponsored by the big companies who make the drugs.
These lawmakers are called Republicans and Democrats, and they will soon vote to pass what is called Medicare reform legislation. What all that really means is the government is going to spend a lot of money paying for what most seniors can afford to pay for themselves but, being selfish, would rather have someone else pay for.
That “someone else” includes people like your Mom and Dad. Why should they have to pay for someone else’s medicine? It’s called a “wealth transfer,” like you getting two dollars for doing your chores and then having the big kid next door take one dollar away, leaving you with only one.
Problem is, as Mom and Dad get older, the taxes they pay won’t be enough and the money will run out. So, the government will ask you to start paying the bill, and it will be huge. Right now they say it will cost $400 billion just to get it up and running.
It Gets Worse
In the 10 years after 2010 the bill will be about $700 billion. Soon after that, you will have your own careers but you will be so heavily taxed you may not be able to afford a house or a car. You might not be able to take a long vacation or raise a family of your own. I’m sorry, I apologize–but it’s not my idea!
Here’s a little secret, so don’t tell: While seniors make up only 12 percent of the population, we own more than half the financial and real estate assets in the country. Not only can most seniors afford the private insurance that pays for drugs, many seniors can even afford to pay cash. This new Medicare giveaway is not what most of us need. The money you will pay in taxes to fund it is something you will need in the future.
Hunting Bugs with a Bazooka
The folks who really need our help are those poor seniors and some very sick people who cannot help themselves. You all know we should share our toys and help those with no toys. The same goes for money.
A drug discount card subsidized by government and given to poor seniors would work to help just the folks who really need it. So would greater publicity and awareness of all those private-sector drug discount cards and patient assistance programs. Lots of people don’t even know they exist.
There is also a very serious mistake in the Medicare drug giveaway. More than one-third–roughly 37 percent–of senior citizens who have employer-provided drug insurance will lose it under the current versions of the Senate or the House plans.
When that happens millions of seniors like Grandpa and Grandma would be forced to accept government-run Medicare. It is how government gets people hooked on giveaways so they have to keep voting for more giveaways. It’s like people who use drugs and can’t stop.
The new government drug program would stop helping seniors after they spend a little money, and then start up again after they have spent lots more money. That has a funny name called the “hole in the doughnut.” It’s like eating through the outside until you get to the center and there’s nothing there … but you are still hungry.
You can help stop this very bad social plan by calling or sending a letter to the people in Congress telling them to help just those folks who really need help and stop messing with your future. They will listen to you because politicians will do anything “for the sake of the children.”
Tell them this is their chance to prove it.
Grandpa Conrad is Conrad F. Meier. This essay was published in the August 2003 issue of Health Care News.