Why Are Medicare Recipients Against Government Healthcare?

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Older voters are not only more likely to have government-provided health care, but also they're more likely to be against the government spending more on health care. Does that make any sense?


Here are the graphs from New Majority:

graphseniorswantgovthealth.png

graphseniorshealthinsurance.png

It would make sense to me that those more likely to have government-provided health care would be the least spooked by the specter of more government-provided health care. But Andrew Gellman has a different take:

Some Obamacare supporters say: Senior citizens have Medicare, which is a government plan, so they should support a public healthcare provision, right? But maybe some people on Medicare are suspicious of expanded government involvement in healthcare because they see it as competing with Medicare for scarce dollars.

I see three possible explanations.

1) The obvious explanation. Senior citizens tend to be more conservative than younger Americans. And this is a liberal piece of legislation. It's not surprising to see affection for the bill fall with age.

2) The reasonable explanation. Perhaps it's reasonable for senior citizens to be nervous about a $1 trillion health care bill that promises to cover costs over ten years by finding $500 billion of cuts within Medicare. Add to that Orszag's Delphic IMAC counsel, and you're looking at a health care bill that puts Medicare cost-cutting at the center of the its strategy to reduce health inflation. I'm sure many seniors are thinking about health care expansion as tethered to cost cutting, and that's showing up in the graph. Reasonable, perhaps, but I'd counter that controlling health inflation is going to be essential, and there's no better place to start than with the health insurance provided by the government.

3) The pessimistic-about-human-intelligence explanation. 45 percent of the country apparently believes (falsely!) that Obama wants to euthanize our senior citizens to save money. I'm sure a disproportionate number of those concerned are the grandfathers and grandmothers thinking Obama's out to kill them in the name of deficit-busting. There's really no point to debunking this fib anymore. It's obviously wrong and the people who still believe the lie will never be convinced. But I'd still like to point out how obviously wrong and stupid the whole controversy it by linking to my friend Conor Clarke, who dedicated most of last week to following the lie into all the dark corners of the Internet and doing his best version of the Terminix man to kill it.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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