Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who Is Entitled To Entitlements

Political pundits, newsmen and commentators have been quick to point out that President Obama left entitlement programs out of his "budget talk" to the nation.  The entitlement programs of which we speak are Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. 

Now that we've reached our mid sixties and receive our pensions and Social Security checks, we must admit that our ears do perk up when we hear discussions about changes in the system that will affect two of those three particular entitlement programs.

We've noticed that the man who ran an entire presidential campaign on the subject of  "Change" is suddenly reluctant to mention that word in connection to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The fact is that all three programs are in dire straits, and reform is needed, change is needed.  Unlike Obama, who wanted to "change a perfectly good democracy into a socialist workers' paradise," when we think of changing Medicare and Medicaid, we are thinking of making the program better.  Believe it, change can be good. 

For years we've heard about Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and doctors cheating the system.  We even knew  of one doctor in New Jersey who kept two sets of books.  The temptation to cheat the government, and  in doing so the American taxpayer, has been just too great for some. This is not to say that all doctors cheat the system, but there are enough of them doing it to make a real difference.

Our parents lived to be 89 and 88 years old.  Both were retired before the age of 65 with disabilities.  We never, ever, thought they would live as long as they did.  They never thought they'd live that long,  but they had a wonderful retirement even though, especially our Dad was plagued with illnesses, life threatening surgeries and extended hospital stays towards the end of his life.  They  were the fortunate ones, and they really benefited from their share of the entitlement programs. As we watched them lead their lives,  we graying baby boomers knew that things would not be the same when the time came for our turn.

Obama's accidentally on purpose, exclusion of  Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from his speech,  was a very carefully planned strategy on his part and that of the political advisers who surround him. A blind man can see his simple minded ploy.  The Democrats want to appear as the saviors of the common people,  those who are in need, and the evil, moustache twirling, beady eyed,  black caped  Republicans, defenders of the rich, will be the ones who bring up the subject of the much needed reform and that dreaded word, "cuts."

Certainly, we don't advocate reductions in benefits or the fear of "death panels," but we do support a much more careful scrutiny of those who habitually "cheat" the government when filing claims.  When you cheat the government, you are really stealing from everyone else who pays taxes.

We recall our mother comparing in horror the price the hospital charged Medicare for the generic version of the same medication they used at home.  Even though they used brand name, their medications cost less than what the hospital charged.  Why?   I recall once  the $7.95 charge for a can of "faux Lysol" to be used in the hospital room, at least $4.00 or $5.00 more than if we'd picked it up at the grocery store.  Does a doctor really need to charge $90.00 for an office visit when he spends less than 10 minutes in the exam room with the patient?  We're not mathematicians but in a huge country of 300 million people, some cutbacks on those outrageous charges just might add up enough to  help out the failing system.

Paul Ryan, who will lead the Republican charge on these entitlement programs isn't speaking about changes in Social Security yet, but Medicaid is on his list. 

One must tread lightly when talking about Medicaid, lest one be considered heartless and unfeeling. Child health is very important and parents who really cannot afford to insure their children are fortunate to have a system like Medicaid.  After all, isn't Medicaid the program which provides health care for the poor?  Is it?   Not always!  I recall a year or so ago waiting for a prescription to be filled when a young woman, the mother of four, well educated, from a good family, who lives in a lovely home with her "husband" walked in the pharmacy section without a handbag, picked up her prescriptions without paying and went home.  It took a while for me to close my mouth, and then I learned that she and the children's father are not married.  He doesn't insure them nor does she?  The children are out of wedlock and they are on Medicaid.

We can list case after case of abuses of the system.  There are people who are unscrupulous enough to believe that they are "entitled" to the entitlement programs.

This writing began as a short introduction to a wonderful interview that we read with Paul Ryan, but we will feature that tomorrow.  Once one begins to think about the corruption that exists on every level, local, state and federal, it seems difficult to stop. 

Arrest for Medicare Fraud
There are two major points that we would like for you to take from this writing.  The first is that we must recognize that the entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid need fixing.  Integrity must be restored, and those who are found using the programs fraudulently should be punished by the law, and lose the right to use the entitlement.

The second one is that we need to send a message to Obama that we are not idiots, and he insults our intelligence with his dime store political psychology. He tried awfully hard to blame all the ills of the world on former President George W. Bush, and he's now going to try to portray fiscally conservative Republicans as the the "bad guys," the evil doers, when it comes to correcting the problems that have bankrupt the system.  Save it for the Democrats Mr. President.  As our dear old granddad would say, "That pill is just too big for us to swallow!"

Two Sisters

Government is not a solution to our problem. Government IS the problem.   --- Ronald Reagan

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