Tea Party Friend, A Question About Medicare

I’d like a Constitutionalist tea party type to explain to me exactly how the Romney/Ryan plan to voucherize Medicare for people not already receiving Medicare jibes with the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. 

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Then, I’d like an explanation about this very simple question: 

If Romney/Ryan’s plan for privatizing Medicare is so fantastic, why not make it applicable to current recipients


  • Doesn’t the 14th Amendment point to the states?  “No state shall . . . “

    • Bolling v. Sharpe and its progeny clarify that equal protection also applies to the federal government through the 5th Amendment due process clause. The equal protection clause is what the Bush v. Gore court used as its rationale. 

      • Of course.  In much the same way that the 14th Amendment is used to
        selectively incorporate much of the Bill of Rights to state constitutions.


        I’m no lawyer and I don’t play one on TV, but I have to believe the real
        answer to your question would also explain why my father was eligible for full
        social security retirement benefits at age 65, I have to wait until I’m 66 1/2
        and my kids will need to be 67 (unless the retirement age gets raised again). 
        The increase in retirement age 
        Of course.  In much the same way that the 14th Amendment is used to
        selectively incorporate much of the Bill of Rights to state constitutions.

        • I really need to get a new laptop.  The second half of my response should have read:

          The increase in retirement
          age was phased in because it was deemed unfair to move the finish line for
          those who were about to cross it.  I suspect similar reasoning would
          explain why Romney’s plan would not impact current retirees or those within
          striking distance of receiving Medicare benefits.

        • I would agree that raising the SS retirement age also runs afoul of the Equal Protection Clause. It’s 65 for everybody, or it’s 65 for nobody. Such changes should only be made, if at all, for people who haven’t yet paid into the system. Once you make your first FICA contribution, you should be eligible for whatever the current recipients are getting.

  • If you interpret “equal protection” to mean that each person gets the same thing from government (equal treatment), then how have we legally changed any rule about anything? Driver’s licenses? Drinking age? Age triggered tax deducations? Why can a 25 year old now be covered under their parents health insurance but not a 30 year old? Or Kevin’s varying Medicare age requirement? We do different (and changing) rules for different ages all the time. Tell me why we can with the others, and you’ve answered your own question. 

    • It has to do with a balancing of the equities – balancing the public policy interest of, e.g., not having kids between 0 – 21 drink, versus the liberty being infringed upon. Here, it has to do with the shifting definitions in the age of majority and whether someone is competent to do a certain thing (vote, enter into a contract, drive, drink).

      Here, we’re saying that if you’re 59 years old, and you’ve been paying FICA since you’re 15 – so, that’s 44 years’ worth of paying into the system with the promise of the single-payer benefits current recipients know and love – all of a sudden the feds are going to break that contract and completely change what you get. That’s fundamentally unfair and serves no legitimate public interest versus the harmful affect it has on payors.

      • Well, the constitution doesn’t use terms like “balancing” when refering to equities; it says they will be absolute. I’d say a strict understanding would say all laws should apply to everyone equally no matter what, and thus (in a black and white world) a 15 year old should drink alcohol if they want and no Medicare or SS rule should be changed ever. In the real world, that you find the drinking age question obvious but the Romney Medicare change onerous and unconstituional says more about your values than the law (IMHO). Some might argue plenty of European countries survive just fine with next to no alcohol regulation, while Medicare is bankrupting all of us and doing more damage.

        These are the rhetorical holes and tongue twisters one gets in when playing devil’s advocate. I guess the bottomline is, I don’t think your original question is valid – if you don’t think you should voucherize Medicare on 14th Amendment grounds, then we never should have added prescription drugs or changed any ages or done anything else to the plan over the years.

        • It’s a different issue to add to the benefits versus completely transforming the system into something not resembling what you’ve been paying into since your first summer job. You have an expectation of – and reliance on – that particular benefit when you turn 65.

          • You don’t have to convince me its a bad policy (I think we should have a single payer system that puts every parasitic insurance company out of business), it just doesn’t work on 14th Amendment grounds. Or on a “government changed the rules and what I was expecting is gone” grounds. Rules change. We all bought homes and cutting the mortgage tax deduction is seriously on the table now. Shit happens. I don’t expect SS to exist by the time I’m old enough to draw it. Relying on the government (for stasis for future planning purposes) is foolish.

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