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.”

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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.