Are the Elderly Committing Generational Theft?

When the government created Medicare in 1965, there were around six working age Americans to pay for one Medicare recipient. Today, because there are so many older people and our life expectancy has increased, around four working age Americans shoulder the burden of one recipient. As the Baby Boomer generation retires, that ratio will only get worse.

The numbers are chilling. The government has promised $34 trillion dollars more for Medicare than it has actually funded -- roughly the equivalent of 30 Iraq Wars. This looming fiscal disaster dwarfs everything we're currently dealing with.

Medicare May Be World's Largest Ponzi Scheme

With the current system doomed to go bust before today's teenagers retire, Medicare is essentially the world's largest Ponzi scheme. Bernie Madoff's scam is pocket change by comparison.

"Medicare is no longer able to guarantee my generation anything in return," Constable said.

And yet the residents of La Posada believe Medicare should cover more, even though Medicare has covered seemingly inessential things like Viagra.

It may seem dumb, but seniors want it. And what seniors want, they usually get, because they vote in large numbers.

So what if a politician campaigned on cutting Medicare?

"Well, then you pay for your campaign, and don't ask me for any!" exclaimed senior Carol Gessner.

But Herzlinger and Petersen said seniors just have to make some sacrifices: Medicare must raise the eligibility age or cut off benefits for wealthy seniors.

"We need to get some personal responsibility in Medicare," said Herzlinger. "If you're poor, OK, you get Medicare. If you can afford to pay for [health insurance] yourself, please, go ahead and do it."

AARP, the giant lobbying group for seniors, opposes those ideas. It claims Medicare's deficits can be solved largely by eliminating waste and reforming health care.

AARP Director of Legislative Policy David Certner said, "We need to do things like make better use of health information technology and health records. We need to do a better job."

So then, computers are going to solve all the problems?

"Well, they certainly won't solve them all," he replied. "They will help make health care more efficient."

But the Congressional Budget Office says the reforms Certner advocates won't really save much money. They're not going to truly make a difference.

"Well, they're going to have to make a difference," he said.

This past decade AARP spent more than $150 million lobbying. The group runs ads reminding lawmakers: we're watching you.

"Well, AARP doesn't want to see people go without insurance," said Certner.

"But ultimately somebody's going to have to give up some medical treatment they'd been getting," countered Peterson.

Peterson has been fighting a lonely battle because many seniors don't know the ugly truth. But once the La Posada residents learned more about the issue, some began to express second thoughts.

"I hear what the kids are saying, and talking strictly from a monetary point of view, they are right," admitted Pearl. "When they get to be our age, there may not be any Medicare."

They understand Medicare's oncoming fiscal crisis and they don't actually want to rip off younger generations.

"Tell them to change the law. If the kids can get the votes then they can get it done," said McCarthy.

Of course, that's not likely to happen soon.

"Who said life is fair?" said Herron.

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