Monday, November 23, 2009

Three Things Robert Samuelson Missed in today’s column

Three Things Robert Samuelson Missed in today’s column

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Robert Samuelson would try and foment intergenerational conflict – I have blogged about his misguided views before. Samuelson continually tries to swim upstream by inventing imaginary cleavages between the generations. Samuelson recycles some of those arguments in today’s Washington Post and I could quarrel with most of what he writes, but I thought I would highlight three specific points that Samuelson misses:

1. Young people currently benefit from Social Security and Medicaid and will continue to enjoy its benefits when they get older. Samuelson mistakenly labels entitlement spending as a payout to today’s seniors. Social Security pays benefits to more children than any other federal program. Six and half million children receive assistance through Social Security from its survivors benefits program. Crucially, 98% of the children in the US are covered through the program if they were to lose a parent. The program provides vital financial security for our nation’s children. Additionally, the vast number of Medicaid recipients are children. Yes, the majority of Medicaid money goes toward paying the long-term care costs of our seniors, but it is still a critical program for our nation’s poorest children. Of course, it goes without saying (unless you are Robert Samuelson) that today’s children will eventually grow old and will continue to benefit from these programs.

2. The current insurance market is not working. Samuelson takes issue with the House and Senate bills because they limit the ability of insurance companies to charge different rates based on your age. Samuelson wants to defend the status quo on the health insurance market when it clearly isn’t working. Debt from medical care is the single biggest reason for bankruptcy in the US. The current market makes it very difficult and prohibitively expensive for older adults to purchase insurance in the individual market. Yes, younger Americans will be subsidizing older Americans to a degree, but that’s the only way to make sure everyone is covered. Not having health insurance is different from car insurance and homeowners insurance. The stakes are higher when it comes to your health. The country cannot continue to tolerate millions of uninsured citizens (young or old).

3. Young people are the most enthusiastic supporters of health insurance reform. Samuelson frequently cries out for young people to get mad at their grandparents’ generation for perceived political injustices. Once again, young people are ignoring his battle call; because they realize the need for reform – many of them witnessed their parents go without insurance. Millennials, like the grandparent's generation are drawn to the call to service and realize that our nation’s problems require shared sacrifices from everyone.

-Terence Kane

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Gerson off Target

Michael Gerson has distinguished himself in the past as a protector of the vulnerable in society. However, he seems to have lost sight of his own ideals in his column today in the Washington Post. Instead of commending young people in this country for recognizing the importance of shared rights and responsibilities, Gerson tries to pit the young and old against each other.

One of the big goals of health care reform is to provide insurance to those that cannot afford coverage in the current market – this includes children and older adults under 65. In order to extend coverage to the uninsured, you have to spread the risk of becoming sick across society. Gerson also confuses mandating coverage for the young working population with providing supports to children. Children, like seniors often are priced out of the insurance market (they have trouble adding to their parents income). One of the best provisions of the House health care bill is to extend Medicaid eligibility to 150% of the federal poverty limit. The provision will help ensure children uninsured and those currently in CHIP are covered.

Budget and deficit hawks continually quack (or whatever sound a hawk makes), “Would someone please think of the grandchildren.” In reality, they rarely propose an actual increase in benefits for children and grandchildren. Their Maude Flanders-like-retort is often just a smoke screen for a trying to reduce public spending for everyone. They also routinely mistake entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid as simply a payout to senior voters, but they are much more. Over six million children receive a cash benefit from Social Security and Medicaid provides essential medical care to the poorest children in society.

In 1983, Bill Bradley called Social Security, “the best expression of community that we have in this country today.” If you want to provide supports for our country’s children and grandchildren, the best way to do so is to support programs that broadly spread risks and supports across society like health care reform.

-Terence Kane