Actually, I don’t think that that was what the AARP set out to poll, but the stereotype of Baby Boomers as shallow and self-absorbed couldn’t help but be burnished by an article I saw in a daily news bulletin put out by the A.M. Best company. This article (subscription required) covered a press release from AARP describing the overwhelming support among voters for national health care coverage:
Most Baby Boomer-Era Voters Support Universal Health Insurance, AARP Poll Says
WASHINGTON October 10 (BestWire) — Most voters say they are likely to vote for candidates who express support for the concept of national health-care coverage, according to a poll of 1,500 likely voters commissioned by AARP.
More than three-quarters of likely voters — 77% — said they are “very likely” (41%) or “somewhat likely” (36%) to vote for a candidate who supports a plan for national health-care coverage, the seniors’ lobbying group said. Nearly eight in 10 of all of those polled — 78% — said the federal government should ensure that everyone has health insurance. Sixty-one percent strongly agreed.
David Sloane, AARP’s director of government relations, said the polling data show that most baby boomer-era voters are reacting to health insurance becoming less affordable and less accessible. “The voter anxiety reflected in this poll is the result of a system that is inefficient, at the mercy of uncontrollable costs, and is leaving tens of millions of people without health insurance,” Sloane said.
… (snip) …
AARP’s poll surveyed likely voters age 42 and older, finding that nearly all (93%) are registered to vote, and that an overwhelming majority (86%) say they plan to vote next month. Fifty-six percent said they “always” vote, and 31% said they “nearly always” vote. Older voters show up at the polls more consistently than younger ones, according to the poll data, with 65% of those older than 60 saying that they always vote, compared with 50% of those aged 51-60 and 44% of those aged 42-50.
More than half of those surveyed said they are “very interested” in this year’s election. Yet as of Oct. 2, only 47% said they had given “quite a lot of thought” to their choice of candidate. Many remain undecided about both House (60%) and Senate (50%) races.
When asked about health insurance, older voters were more likely than younger ones to vote for a candidate who supports national health insurance. Forty-three percent of those aged 61 and older said they would vote for such a candidate, compared with 46% for those aged 51-60 and 32% of those aged 42-50. More younger voters, those aged 42-50, said they would be “somewhat likely” to vote for a candidate supporting national health care. Only small minorities said they would be “not very likely” to vote for candidates who support such a plan, with 9% of those aged 42-50, 6% of those 51-60, and 9% of those older than 61 agreeing.
I’ll leave it to more experienced poll-busters (Mitch, David, King?) to dig into this, but I have to seriously wonder what kind of sampling went into selecting these 1500 likely voters, and just what questions were asked (and how they were worded). This information wasn’t offered in the original AARP press release, but I’m speculating it was along the lines of “Would you rather use your own hard-earned assets to pay for your healthcare when you’re older or would you like an ice-cream sundae with whip cream and a cherry?” Hmmm, tough choice. Ice cream?
Of course, just about everyone likes ice cream, but the reality of a single-payer, national health insurance system is more like sour cream, neither of which are that good for you. It hasn’t worked in Cuba (unless you’re Fidel Castro, in which case you can apparently live forever), and in Great Britain and Canada it may even kill you, as I posted a couple of weeks ago. Sure, these programs always sound “fair”, especially if you don’t realize how much you’re paying for it (which is the reason our current flawed and counter-intuitive health system has managed to keep tottering forward). The Boomers, most of whom are beginning to realize they’ve underfunded for their dreams of golden retirement (at least they’ve got a killer sound-system and the big-screen plasma tv) are looking for another answer. The problem is they’re only being given a choice between two systems, one just slightly less imperfect than the other. They’re ready to jump at the “something for nothing” deal because that’s what they’ve come to expect as their due, but just wait until they need that hip replacement and have to wait more than a year to get it — or even find out that the government has decided that they’re too old or incapacitated to justify spending any more of its resources on them. This is not a generation that reacts well to being denied.
Okay, I’ll admit that that’s an unfair and extreme characterization of a generation that I find myself in (although at the tail end). What really gets me upset, however, is the proposition that if what we currently have doesn’t work then there’s only one other option. We shouldn’t have to keep propping up this misbegotten and artifical system we currently have, but we definitely don’t need to switch to an even more oppressive and inefficient model (especially when it’s been proven not to work). What we need is a market-driven healthcare system that takes the purchasing power out of the hands of third-party payers or the government and into the hands of the consumer, allowing us to buy healthcare the way we buy groceries or auto insurance.
Will it be easy? No. Will it be painful? Yes. Has this generation ever taken the path that wasn’t easy or that offered pain? Anecdotally, the evidence doesn’t look very good. There’s a lot to be unlearned, and special interest to be overcome, but we’ve got a chance to bite the bullet and do it — and leave a lasting legacy (instead of a curse) for those that come after us.
Along these lines, Policy Guy recommends a book, The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care.