Do Opponents of “Government in the Insurance Business” Want to Eliminate Medicare?

It gets boring pointing this out, but it’s still true that members of congress who claim to have deep-rooted philosophical or practical objections to government-run health insurance have some kind of intellectual responsibility to give some account of their attitude toward America’s existing government-run insurance programs. And journalists who write about their statements ought to bring this point up:

“I think that a fundamental difference we have is whether we think government does a good job at administering health care in America or providing health insurance for the American people,” [John McCain] said. “I don’t think they do.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said on “This Week” that “100 percent of Republicans have indicated that they don’t think having government in the insurance business is a good idea.”

Right now, Americans who are aged 65 and older receive health insurance that’s administered by the government. I can see a perfectly coherent argument that this is a mistake, and that 66 year-olds should be left to the tender mercies of for-profit insurance providers in just the way that 64 year-olds are. But that would be a pretty radical political proposal in the United States. It’s not one that I believe Senators McCain or McConnell have traditionally advocated. And it’s hard for me to believe that some magical transformation takes place on one’s 65th birthday that suddenly makes government-provided insurance workable.