“GIMME BENEFITS AND GIMME DEATH”

It’s not quite as catchy a slogan as the original, but perhaps more reflective of the times. Consider these reports as summarized by a recent ACC News Digest:

Coverage of the Administration’s releasing the list of almost 2,000 business, unions, and governments that will receive reimbursements for early retiree healthcare costs tended to focus on either the government program itself or how some states seeking to overturn the healthcare reform law are now reaping its benefits.

The Washington Post (9/1, Aizenman) reports, “Nearly 2,000 employers and unions have been approved to seek federal reimbursement for the health claims of their…retired workers aged 55 or older who are too young to get Medicare.” The program reimburses up to 80 percent of covered individuals’ medical costs over $15,000 and up to $90,000. “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the principal goal was to halt the steady decline of employers offering coverage to early retirees.” However, isn’t clear that the $5 billion allocated for the program will last until 2014, when federally subsidized health insurance exchanges will be established. Meanwhile, opponents of the healthcare overhaul are taking advantage of the subsidy, including “Koch Industries, one of whose principal owners, billionaire David Koch, has been a major funder of groups that lobbied heavily to defeat the health-care law,” and “many state governments that are party to a lawsuit contesting the health-care law’s constitutionality.”

The Los Angeles Times (9/1, Levey) reports, “Several states that are suing to overturn the healthcare law are among those that plan to seek the aid, including Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Nevada.”

GM, when faced with bankruptcy, to a large extent abetted by the defined retiree benefits slung like a fifty pound weight on the neck of a drowning man, was bailed out by the government.

Greece, bankrupt from its promises of worker benefits unearned and unavailable, faces strikes and violence as it topples off the economic precipice.

France’s workers, informed that the retirement age must be raised from 60 to 62 react with anger and strikes (when was the last time a strike reduced a production shortfall?).

I know, I’m painting a pretty dismal picture. But we can still turn it around, by living within our means, like we used to. Or … maybe we can hang our debt on our children and grandchildren like a fifty pound weight on the neck of a drowning man.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

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