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April 28, 2008


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Since you ended your post with a joke, I'll start the comments with one. This post reminds me of the 100-year-old man celebrating his birthday who said, "If I'd known I was going to live so long, I'd have taken better care of myself." Ha!

I'm willing to predict there will come a tipping point where there will be enough votes that the government will do something. Of course, that can be a good thing or a bad thing, and either way it won't be cheap. If more than half the population feels threatened, there will be a political reaction.

Personally, I think the government has done well with social security and until the unfunded prescription drug mandate they have done a good job with medicare. By that I mean the programs are well run, with little overhead and have kept literally millions of seniors out of the poorhouse.

Of course you're correct in your criticism of the government if you wish to speak in terms of general deficit spending, which threatens the long term viability of both Medicare and Social Security. But the programs themselves are pretty well run, at least as well run as private pensions or private health insurance providers.

Remember the government is us. And we keep voting for people who tell us we can have our cake and eat it too.

Hopefully efforts to solve the problem will focus on healthcare costs, rather than simply health insurance coverage.

When has government made things better by becoming involved? Hmm, let's see: vaccination and public health (Centers for Disease Control); the Interstate Highway System; the TVA and rural electrification; protection of the monetary system and investor protection (Federal Reserve, FDIC, SEC); public libraries; police protection; public colleges and universities. This successful blog is made possible by the Internet, which itself emerged from the Department of Defense and other publicly funded research. Based on that track record, I'd say that it's possible we might just be able to address the healthcare issue.

Good points. Deficit spending is brought to you by administrations and other leaders of congress, not the actual government programs.

FMF, do you really think health care managed by a for profit organization really has your best interest at heart? I don't. Most insurance companies (for health care) have subscriber bases smaller than the national programs in Canada, Taiwan, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, etc., etc. yet we still compare very poorly to those countries in terms of infant mortality, age expectancy, chronic heart disease, etc. Why are those countries able to maintain better health standards than our managed care/for profit system? So do you honestly believe those government run programs are worse than ours? Sure, we might have better access to procedures that cost $50,000+, but on average people in those countries don't need as many of those $$$ procedures because they're in better health - thanks to their better preventative care programs. That leads us to the need for long term care. We need it more than they do.

My employer doesn't guarantee it will offer access to its insurance policy to retirees. They have in the past, but each year in the small print you'll see a disclaimer stating they offer it for that year and may not in subsequent years. So I really don't expect it to be there in 25 years when I retire. Meanwhile I max out my 401k each year in hopes of retiring with a certain level of comfort. The thought of losing my retirement savings to provide nursing home care for me or my wife because I don't have access to coverage is pretty scary.

Craig --

There are pros and cons with both for profit companies and government agencies. The former is too profit motivated and the latter is too wasteful.

I agree with Toby on the fact that I hope the government addresses cost issues related to healthcare. And as far as his/her examples of what the government has done right -- he/she isn't considering cost implications. Give me $1 million and I'll mow your yard for a summer with no problem too. Maybe the governemt isn't that bad, but my general feeling is that all the above accomplishments probably could have been done with much less expense than other options.

Taking care of yourself is key. My mother visited me this weekend and showed me how she is supposed to take 9 (!) different pills at every meal - half of them are expensive prescriptions. She never anticipated spending so much on healthcare in retirement, nor did she expect she would be on Medicare.

She told me how the Part D (prescription coverage) "donut hole" hit her at the end of the year, so badly that she had to make the choice between paying for prescriptions or paying her rent, and she's finally caught up with her landlord now (because she didn't want to dip into her nest egg).

She's only 68, and will probably live a long (albeit unhealthy) life... And she's one of the few who actually has a large enough nest egg to live on - at least in theory.

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