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Home > Opinion-Editorials: 2003
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GOP Renews Era of Big Government

By Scott Holleran
November 25, 2003

With zero time remaining, the bill to expand Medicare had been short by two votes—yet, long after the clock had stopped, the Republican leadership maneuvered to change key conservative votes. Later, Rep. Butch Otter, R-Idaho, pleaded to the Associated Press: "I did not want to vote for this bill." But, in the end, that is exactly what the conservative did.

Some might claim the Republicans' heavy-handed tactics subvert the legislative process and taint the billšs credibility and they have a point. But they would be missing the essential point: 10 years after the sweeping Clinton health care plan was opposed by conservative Republicans, conservative Republicans are forcing Americans into government-run health care.

Force is the premise of the GOP's Medicare plan. Through regulations, the bill will force America's seniors into HMOs. In an enormous bait-and-switch for Americans who have earned a higher standard of living, the Medicare bill will force seniors who make a certain amount of money to pay much more than they have already paid into Medicare. While few, if any, seniors must choose between their medications and their meals, Medicare drug subsidies will force every American to pay more for one of the richest generations in history.

Before the vote, retired Indiana resident Jack Banister, who supports Bush, told the New York Times: "I'd sure like them to leave the prescription drug thing alone. A lot of us have worked all our lives to prepare ourselves for retirement. And the federal government coming in is likely to screw that all up."

Enacting new limits, deductibles and something called a donut hole that will make getting a prescription immeasurably more difficult, GOP leaders, like their nemesis, Hillary Clinton, refused to divulge details. This much is known: those with more than $10,000 in assets, not counting a home and car, are prohibited from receiving the subsidy—and a visit to the doctor for a prescription may mean proving one's assets. Many, if not most, retired persons are likely to lose their current drug benefits, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and the new entitlement to prescription drugs will cost at least $ 400 billion.

Medicare expansion's leading advocate is President Bush, who has been eager to increase government control of medicine, either on the grounds that it will get him reelected or, worse, because he believes that each person over age 65 is born with a right to have someone else pay for prescription drugs. In either case, Bush, like his fellow conservatives, has completely accepted the moral premise of socialism.

America's health care system is neither socialism nor capitalism, though it is much closer to socialism. The tax code punishes the individual who chooses not to depend on a corporation or the government to pay for health care, which, due to huge Medicare and Medicaid expenditures, is becoming more expensive. Spending more on Medicare will make matters worse.

The GOP Congress's historic approval of Medicare expansion captures the essence of the new, Bush-era Republican Party: they do not favor the right to make money; they support punishing the rich with higher premiums. They do not favor the idea of something for something; they sanction robbing retired persons of their former employer's benefits when they need benefits most. They do not even practice compassion; they seek to herd older Americans into HMOs and deprive younger Americans of any shred of financial independence.

In short, by adding drug subsidies to Medicare—the full meaning of which will become clear to Americans sooner than later—Republicans, led by President Bush, believe in one basic idea: Big Government.

Whether Americans punish the GOP in the 2004 elections will become known in time. Meanwhile, it is fitting that Republicans forced the largest expansion of government in 40 years by voting in the darkest hours with the clock reading zero—it best represents the exact value of expanding Medicare.

This Thanksgiving, as President Bush signs Medicare expansion into law, Americans' proper response is: Thanks for nothing.

Scott Holleran is a freelance writer in California.


Copyright © 2003 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.
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