As readers of this blog know, the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and the rest is what makes the rich rich. If there were no Gap, we all would be the same. No one would be rich.
So, in their relentless efforts to become even richer, the rich try to widen that Gap, either by accumulating more for themselves or by preventing those below them from gaining more. This is the essence of Gap Psychology, the universal desire to widen the Gap below and to narrow the Gap above.
One nefarious method used by the rich and their toadies is to pretend the federal government is running short of dollars, and supposedly cannot afford to fund social benefits.
Never mind that the federal government, being Monetarily Sovereign, cannot run short of dollars. No Monetarily Sovereign entity ever unintentionally can run short of its own sovereign currency. Not now. Not ever.
Even if the federal government collected $0 taxes, and had no other form of income, it still could continue spending, forever.
Who says so? Well, how about:
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan: “A government cannot become insolvent with respect to obligations in its own currency.”
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke: “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.”
Quote from Ben Bernanke when, as Fed chief, he was on 60 Minutes:
Scott Pelley: Is that tax money that the Fed is spending?
Ben Bernanke: It’s not tax money… We simply use the computer to mark up the size of the account.
Statement from the St. Louis Fed:
“As the sole manufacturer of dollars, whose debt is denominated in dollars, the U.S. government can never become insolvent, i.e., unable to pay its bills. In this sense, the government is not dependent on credit markets to remain operational.”
Press Conference: Mario Draghi, President of the ECB, 9 January 2014
Question: I am wondering: can the ECB ever run out of money?
Mario Draghi: Technically, no. We cannot run out of money.
Who disagrees? The bought-and-paid-for mouthpiece for the insurance industry, Janet Trautwein, CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters.
Lowering the age for Medicare eligibility is a lousy idea we can’t afford
Medicare’s eligibility age would be lowered from 65 to 60 under a spending package being negotiated in Congress. By Janet Trautwein
Congress is hashing out the details of a $3.5 trillion spending package that could lower Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 60.
The proposal would severely disrupt not just the Medicare program but the broader market for private insurance. And it would do so at a great cost.
Remember, that all she’s worried about is just five extra years of Medicare. Every pejorative she spouts about those five years presumably also would apply to the current 65+ Medicare. So she really is disparaging Medicare itself, one of the most popular federal programs in history.
At “a great cost” to whom? Certainly not to the public who already pays outrageous amounts for private health care insurance, or does without insurance altogether.
Read Trautwein’s weasel-worded response:
Lowering Medicare’s eligibility age would not significantly increase the number of people with insurance.
Almost two-thirds of the more than 20 million people between the ages of 60 and 64 already have private health coverage. About 25% have public coverage through Medicaid or other government programs.
And 11% of Americans purchase plans on the individual market, including through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.
Less than 10% of people in this age group are uninsured.
Let’s parse the above deceptive paragraph, to clarify what it really says:
“Not significantly” means, according to her own figures, about 13 million people. That’s not “significant”??
“Almost two-thirds of the more than 20 million people between the ages of 60 and 64 already PAY FOR private health coverage.
“About 25% have to PAY FOR public coverage through Medicaid or other government programs.
“And 11% of Americans PAY FOR insurance on the individual market, including through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.
Get it? Trautwein is trying to sell you on the notion that you personally are better able to afford paying for health care insurance than is the Monetarily Sovereign federal government, the one entity in America that has access to unlimited dollars at no cost to anyone.
In other words, expanding Medicare would simply replace the soon-to-be seniors’ existing coverage, which is typically private, with publicly funded coverage.
And the federal government paying instead of you is supposed to be a bad thing??
And don’t be deceived, even if your job supplies you with “free insurance,” it isn’t free. Your employer figures in that cost when deciding how much to pay you. It comes right out of your salary.
Many of these 60- to 64-year-olds would be disappointed with their new benefits under Medicare.
The program does not cover dependents, as do exchange plans or employer-sponsored insurance. So older adults who switch to Medicare may have to find new coverage for their spouses or children.
Traditional Medicare doesn’t include benefits like dental care. But nearly 70% of employer-sponsored plans do.
The proposed Medicare for All plans do cover dependents and dental care. But even if they didn’t, the cost for available supplements still would be far lower than people pay now.
That is exactly why the CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters opposes Medicare
(Oh, did she neglect to mention that the insurance industry also opposed the spectacularly popular Original Medicare? Now, for all the same reasons, they oppose adding the 60-64 year olds.)
If Medicare is inferior, why does the vast majority of seniors love it, and why can the 60-64 year olds hardly wait to join?
What’s more, enrolling in Medicare could result in higher costs for soon-to-be seniors. More than 1 million people between the ages of 60 and 64 have insurance through the exchanges. Seven in 10 of them receive tax credits to help purchase that coverage.
After transitioning to Medicare — and forfeiting these subsidies — more than 15% of the proposed Medicare-eligible population could owe higher premiums based on their income. As a result, a recent study from consulting firm Avalere concluded that “simply expanding Medicare eligibility does not guarantee premium affordability.”
If the above were correct, what would those 60-64 year olds do? You guessed it. They would just stay with their private insurance. No law against that.
Of course, that won’t happen, for the same reasons that Medicare is so popular among the 65+ age groups.
An expanded version of Medicare could also make employer-sponsored coverage more expensive. Medicare has the power to dictate what it will pay to health care providers. Private plans don’t have that luxury. So they end up paying providers much more than does Medicare.
And where do the private plans get the money to “pay providers much more than does Medicare”? Right, again. They get the money from the high premiums you pay. Trautwein actually wants you to believe that lower-cost benefits are something you should avoid.
If older people switch from higher-paying employer-sponsored plans to lower-paying Medicare, then providers may respond by raising rates for private plans. And that means higher premiums for the majority of Americans, who get coverage through their jobs.
Let’s be clear. Providers charge as much as the market will bear, i.e as much as they can. If they could charge more, they would.
So you are being asked to pay doctors and hospitals more so that other people might possibly be able to pay less.
Imagine this: The next time you go to your car dealer, clothing store, or grocery store, surely you’ll generously want to pay more, and not even use coupons, so that other shoppers can pay less. Right?
Rural health care providers may not be able to survive if their pool of patients becomes dominated by lower-paying Medicare beneficiaries. Already, one-quarter of rural hospitals are on the brink of closure. They can ill afford further cuts in pay.
There is no evidence that Medicare is causing rural health care providers to close. Quite the opposite. Medicare provides these hospitals with paid patients, who otherwise could not afford hospital fees or who would get their health care via the free emergency room.
And now we come to the phony “federal-government-is-running-short-of-dollars” Big Lie:
Then there’s the effect of expansion on Medicare’s long-term fiscal health. One recent study from the American Action Forum projected that lowering Medicare’s eligibility age to 60 would add some 14 million people to the program at a cost of about almost $400 billion over 10 years.
That’s $400 billion, which our Monetarily Sovereign government easily could fund. In fact, the federal government could eliminate all taxes and still fund Medicare not just for the 60+ group, but for every man, woman, and child in America.
Now, in desperation, Trautwein refers to the fake “trust fund” that supposedly (but not really) pays for Medicare, Part A. The federal government doesn’t have anything remotely resembling a real trust fund.
What Trautwein and the government calls a “trust fund” is not a trust fund. It’s just a balance sheet entry, that unlike a real trust fund, can be changed at will by the government.
To quote from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation website:
Federal trust funds bear little resemblance to their private-sector counterparts, and therefore the name can be misleading.
A “trust fund” implies a secure source of funding. However, a federal trust fund is simply an accounting mechanism used to track inflows and outflows for specific programs.
In private-sector trust funds, receipts are deposited and assets are held and invested by trustees on behalf of the stated beneficiaries.
In federal trust funds, the federal government does not set aside the receipts or invest them in private assets.
Rather, the receipts are recorded as accounting credits in the trust funds, and then combined with other receipts that the Treasury collects and spends.
Further, the federal government owns the accounts and can, by changing the law, unilaterally alter the purposes of the accounts and raise or lower collections and expenditures.
Here is her deceptive comment:
Medicare scarcely has enough money to cover the costs of its current beneficiaries. According to the latest report from its trustees, Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2026.
At that point, the program will not be taking in enough tax revenue to pay claims.
The federal government may have to unilaterally cut rates to providers, which would, in turn, undermine patients’ ability to access care.
Trautwein doesn’t want you to know that the federal government arbitrarily can change the numbers in the fake trust fund at any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all.
She also doesn’t want you to know that Medicare Part B is more straightforward. It doesn’t even pretend to have a fake “trust fund.” It is funded directly by the federal government. Oops!
Tax revenue doesn’t pay claims. It’s a dirty little secret that federal tax revenue doesn’t pay for anything. In fact, all federal (as opposed to local) tax dollars are destroyed by the Treasury upon receipt.
They begin as part of the M1 money supply measure, (your private checking account). Then when they hit the Treasury, they cease to exist in any money supply measure. There is no measure of Treasury money because the Treasury has infinite dollars.
The federal government always creates new dollars, at will, when it pays for anything.
With insolvency looming for Medicare, expanding the program is neither prudent nor fiscally appropriate.
It would be wiser for Congress to enact reforms that would reduce the cost of health care for all patients, whether they’re publicly or privately insured.
Legislators’ bipartisan work late last year addressing surprise medical bills stands out as a model for future action.
As Bernanke, Greenspan, the St. Louis Fed, and Draghi have told you, a Monetarily Sovereign entity like the U.S. federal government cannot become insolvent with respect to debt in its own sovereign currency.
Because the federal government cannot become insolvent, none of its agencies can become insolvent, unless that is what Congress wants.
Medicare, as a federal agency, cannot become insolvent unless Congress decides to make it insolvent.
The “reforms” Trautwein pretends to want are exactly what she really objects to: Reducing the age limit for Medicare and cutting the costs of medicine.
Finally, Trautwein unintentionally tells you why the “U.S. Ranks Last Among Seven Countries on Health System Performance Measures“ Commonwealth Fund)
Our health care system relies on a mix of private and public payers to ensure access to high-quality care.
Disrupting that mix by adding more Americans to Medicare could raise costs for those in the private market — and reduce access to care for everyone.
The Commonwealth Fund article concludes:
Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall compared with six other industrialized countries—Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—on measures of quality, efficiency, access to care, equity, and the ability to lead long, healthy, and productive lives, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report.
The U.S. ranks last simply because that “mix of private and public payers” requires the public to fund what the federal government could fund at no cost to the public.
There clearly is a correlation between those high private insurance charges and the cost of U.S. health care.
The U.S. stands out for not getting good value for its health care dollars: it spent $7,290 per capita on health care in 2007 but ranks last among seven countries.
Provisions in the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that could extend health insurance coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans have the potential to improve the United States’s standing, according to Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally, 2010 Update, by Commonwealth Fund researchers Karen Davis, Cathy Schoen, and Kristof Stremikis.
You can be sure that Janet Trautwein, CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters and paid shill for the insurance industry, will continue to write misleading articles about why the much loved Medicare program should not be extended to more people.
She’s paid to make you want to transfer dollars from your pockets to the insurance companies’ coffers.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT IS TO IMPROVE AND PROTECT THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE.
The most important problems in economics involve:
- Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
- Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”
Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics. Implementation of Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and narrow the Gaps:
Ten Steps To Prosperity:
- Eliminate FICA
- Federally funded Medicare — parts A, B & D, plus long-term care — for everyone
- Social Security for all
- Free education (including post-grad) for everyone
- Salary for attending school
- Eliminate federal taxes on business
- Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually.
- Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.
- Federal ownership of all banks
- Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9%
The Ten Steps will grow the economy and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and the rest.
6 thoughts on “The insurance industry’s excuse for not wanting you to have Medicare”
I remember Austin Goolsbee being confronted by a question involving Monetary Sovereignty. The professor could only stammer, squint and profess to not being familiar with it. I’m sure he knew all about it, but as a member of the well-paid establishment, had to take the easy way out and profess ignorance of reality.
Good Post, Rodger. In one of my several careers, I sold life and health insurance for 15 years.
First, I want to call out her use of “access”. This is total bullshit and a common diversion tactic of the health insurance industry. It’s not access people need, anyone can go to an emergency room. It’s actual health care that people need, provided by educated professionals on an as needed basis without cost or gatekeepers.
And a correction: Medicare Part B is financed, in part, by premiums paid by Medicare enrollees. It’s deducted from
Social Security checks and for those eligible for Medicare before they’re eligible for Social Security premiums for Part B are billed quarterly. The premiums are also income based so those with large incomes other then Social Security pay more. I would expect you to know this, you must be receiving Social Security. I also suspect that a successful businessman such as yourself is likely paying more than the minimum.
Some years ago the IRS began requiring employers to state on employee’s W-2’s how much their health insurance was costing the company. This was informational only and has no effect on people’s taxes.
The amounts are amazing. I see them every year preparing my client’s tax returns (my final career as a tax accountant). It is not uncommon to see costs in the $12-20,000 range annually for each employee. These figures are totals, including any contribution by the employee deducted from their paychecks.
One of the faults I see in all proposals for Medicare for All is that no one is talking about what’s going to happen to this money when employer’s no longer have to pay the private insurance companies. If the employers are allowed to keep it they will have windfall profits. Any legislation regarding Medicare for All should include provisions for the costs shown on employees W-2’s to be included in the employee’s pay. The boost to our economy if such a thing were done is a helluva lot.
And wouldn’t it be great to divert those hundreds of millions from the 1% to the working class?
Hope you are staying healthy and safe.
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One thing to remember is that ALL federal spending is financed by federal money creation. The federal government neither needs nor uses any form of income to finance spending.
The fact that premiums are deducted from employees’ paychecks does not mean those premiums pay for anything. Those M1 dollars are destroyed the instant they hit the Treasury, where they disappear into the Treasury’s infinite supply of money..
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Umm, I think you’re conflating two different things I mentioned.
Premiums deducted from employee’s paychecks pay for private insurance.
Part B premiums deducted from Social Security do not pay for Medicare, I know that, except within the accounting systems of the Treasury. They still come out of your income, which is my point. That’s obviously not necessary.
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Apparently, I misunderstood your comment, “Medicare Part B is financed, in part, by premiums paid by Medicare enrollees.”
As we agree, Medicare Part B is financed wholly by the federal government, In fact, ALL federal spending is financed wholly by the federal government. No federal spending is financed by dollars coming to the Treasury.
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Not just you, I used a poor choice of words.
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