Megaphones on the Midway
In the small Ohio town where I grew up, summer
revolved around the Cuyahoga County Fair. ; You could
actually see the differences among Holstein, Black Angus, Guernsey and Santa Ger-land Red chickens and Peking
ducks that were raised in Ohio,
and enjoy parades of ponies and
horses, stalls of pigs and displays of flowers and farm pro-
trudis cows, discover Rhode Is-duce, some raised by schoolmates. ; But the fair came
to life on the midway. There was a new ride every year,
you could see the world’s smallest man or the strongest
wins a giant
Then let’s get
woman or the sword-eater, and try your luck at winning
a giant stuffed animal bigger than the prize you won last
year. That’s also where you could meet and hear cam-
ON THE COVER: MARK MATCHO; INSET: CENTRAL PRESS/GETTY IMAGES THIS PAGE: SIMON BREMNER/GETTY IMAGES
paigning politicians, who knew where to find the crowds.
But when the fair ended, so did summer fun. And it
was time again for the serious work and daily routine of school. It’s fair season again, and an election
year. Walk down any midway, and amid all the blinking lights,
clanging bells and shouting kids, you’ll hear plenty of political
promises. And this being 2010, much of the rhetoric addresses the
nation’s new health care law. A lot of people don’t like it. Many do.
Most don’t know enough about it to have decided. But it’s the opponents who have the loudest megaphones at the moment.
Here’s what the critics, mostly Republicans, say: It costs too
much. It’s too complicated. And it puts medical decisions in the
hands of someone else.
If you think that sounds familiar, you’re right. Except that the last
time you heard it, at county fairs in 2004, it was Democrats, not Republicans, howling. Just months earlier, the
Republican-controlled Congress had created Medicare’s Part D prescription drug
program, and Democrats warned that the
cost of the program would bust the budget,
that seniors would reject it because it was
too complicated, and that it put insurance
companies in the middle of decisions that
you and your doctor should make.
Much of this year’s county fair rhetoric
focuses on costs. The truth is that the cost
of health care in America really is going to
go up. When the new law is implemented, an additional 32 million
citizens who don’t have health insurance will get it. That’s not free.
As any sixth-grader can tell you, 32 million people paying insurance
premiums means more money is being spent on health care.
That leads to an important principle essential for the insurance industry: Because the majority of the new enrollees will be
younger—and healthier—their premiums will more than pay for
the health services they need, and help spread the costs of caring
for older enrollees. This economic reality is the essential building
block of the health care reform effort. More people buying insurance should mean premiums across the board will fall.
Here’s the point: This is a complicated new law we’re implementing. Rather than get swept up in county fair rhetoric, let’s
concentrate on explaining it and understanding it.
Enjoy the fairs. I hope everyone wins a giant teddy bear. Then let’s
get to the serious work of explaining this new, complex law and finding
ways to implement it efficiently and promptly. —Jim Toedtman, Editor
AARP Bulletin July-August 2010, Volume 51, No. 6 (USPS Number 002-900; ISSN 1044-1123) is published monthly except February and August by AARP, 601 E St. N. W., Washington, DC 20049 (telephone: 1-888-687-2277). Internet site: www.aarp.org/bulletin, “The Newspaper of 50-Plus America.”
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