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.