If you sign a contract with me to put a new roof on your house, and then decide you’re going to make me wait a year before you pay me, what do you expect me to do?
I’m going to tear your new roof right back off.
In a recent editorial, the Observer-Reporter tried to equate raising the Medicare eligibility age by one year, with raising the income tax rate on a top earner, by 4.6 percent.
Your readers deserve to see the numbers in that equation:
A tax increase for a man earning $300,000 per year equals $2,300.
Private health insurance for a man earning $22,000 per year equals $3,000.
Without Medicare, the poor man will pay more than the rich man.
This is not equal. Now let’s look at the time it takes each of these men to earn this money:
The hours needed for rich man to earn $2,300 is about 16 hours.
The hours needed for poor man to earn $3,000 is about 272 hours.
This is not equal by a factor of 17.
Now let’s look at where the money goes:
The rich man’s tax increase goes to pay down the federal debt.
The poor man’s health insurance money goes to Highmark Corp. or some other company.
This is not equal.
In fact, it is an absurd comparison, when you consider that the purpose of the original equation was to mediate the fiscal “cliff” by paying off the federal deficit.
Now let’s look at the legal foundations of the two contracts:
A rich man’s tax change is the result of a temporary cut that was made to his rate in 2010, and is going to go up anyway at the end of 2012. The current Medicare eligibility age is a law that has been in place for more than 40 years and will require an act of Congress to change.
The only excuse you offered as justification for raising the age to 66 was the fact that people are living longer nowadays, and one part of that is true: Rich people are living longer – five years longer – as opposed to poor people, who are living only one year longer. Why the disparity? According to Harvard Medical School, the difference is because rich people have access to better health care.
And after all this, raising the eligibility age will not save the federal government a single dollar. Why? Because it’s just like the bill for that new roof – it still must be paid, making me wait for it, and just delays the inevitable.
Ultimately, the only way raising the eligibility age will help the federal deficit is if we die before we reach the age of 66; and that is a distinct possibility for me, and 44 million other Americans who have paid into Medicare all our lives, and yet currently have no health insurance of our own.
You should decide: Do you want the Bush tax cuts to quietly expire on their own as originally intended, or do you want your newspaper readers to start dying off early? I, for one, do not intend to go quietly into that good night.
Not while I can still tear a new roof off.