For decades, our politicians have encouraged the belief that Medicare is a magical 401(k) plan in which the contributions from individuals and their employers, plus accrued interest, cover the total cost of health care in retirement.
This is an illusion. Instead, it's designed as a pay-as-you-go program, with a cushion of less than nine months' expenditures.
It's even worse -- more like a "pay-after-you've-gone" program -- because 32 percent to 40 percent of the expenditures ($88 billion in 2001 and $204 billion in 2010) have been provided from general revenue. The federal government has run deficits for the past decade, so these sums have been added to the national debt, borrowed from our creditors and left for future generations to pay. If total Medicare expenditures equaled the amount taken in as Medicare taxes, it would have been necessary to reduce the outlays in 2010 by roughly 40 percent.
Those of us who have passed "three score years and ten" are children of the Greatest Generation, whose sacrifices built our future, despite the Great Depression and subsequent world war, by providing economic growth in the following decades.
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Is it too much to ask of us to take every step we can and support every promising approach to reduce the cost of our health care to what our country can afford? Will we be remembered as the group that helped bring the cost of our health care under control, or will we be the "Greedy Generation," who demanded what could only be paid for by our children and grandchildren?
Christopher C. Widnell
Hilton Head Island