Home > Ezra Klein, Medicare, Washington Post > Yes, Ezra, Medicare is popular – but that’s hardly the point

Yes, Ezra, Medicare is popular – but that’s hardly the point

Ezra Klein tries hard. His efforts on behalf of his party are admirable, but ultimately, though he might be doing a good job of addressing Democratic lawmakers’ concerns over just about everything they’re doing up here — this seems to be Ezra’s job description: “What are Dems worried about today? Let me see if I can allay those fears!” — his arguments are generally completely beside the point.

Of course Medicare is popular today. And so what if it was unpopular when it was passed, as Klein’s dutiful research has shown? The point is hardly whether people really enjoy the benefits of free stuff. You’d be hard-pressed to find a population anywhere the majority of which would say they’re ungrateful or generally dissatisfied with, say, the free all-you-can-eat breakfast you fed them this morning.

Medicare is falling apart, because — and this would be true of a Medicare-for-all, universal-care system — the model is unsustainable. So, that nice hot breakfast no one is complaining about today will be prohibitively expensive a year from now, which will require severe skimping by the providers. Fewer options, maybe. Smaller portions. Less frequent refills of the oatmeal pot. A shortening of the hours during which the breakfast is available. Fresh coffee is replaced by instant.

Soon enough, this will be true of Medicare — and my God, could you imagine the unsustainability of a Medicare-for-all system in a nation of 305 million? — except that there’s a difference, as Ezra would have to admit, between my admittedly crude breakfast-bar example and the universal-care model: your hotel of choice begins to offer a pretty lame breakfast bar, you get annoyed, sure, but you have options. McDonald’s is right across the street. But in a Medicare-for-all system where skyrocketing costs have to be cut — services curtailed, treatment options denied, waits lengthened — where do you go?

Let’s check back on those popularity polls in about 20 years, Ezra, after Medicare’s free breakfast is over. Let’s see just how popular it is then.

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