As this posts, I’m about to depart to visit a sales rep at Blue Cross Blue Shield to discuss (and probably sign up for) the various Medicare supplement plans that will cover my medical needs the rest of my life. And, in the process I presume, reduce the very high health insurance premiums we pay on our individual plans.
I got my own Medicare card in the mail, automatically, over a month ago. So in very short order, I will be a true Senior Citizen for all purposes. Discounts at movie theaters. Discounts for other things. Even a special Senior Menu at Denny’s. (Not that I ever eat at Denny’s.)
Thank you, all you young taxpayers who will support me as I slip into my dotage. I’m tired of paying my own way (since early retirement in 1997); ’bout time I got a break. ‘Bout time to join the Entitlement Society. (Of course, my libertarian tendencies must stay at a slow boil while I grit my teeth; at least I’m conscious of the contrarian stresses, as opposed to those Tea Party Seniors who chant, “Keep the Feds out of our healthcare!”).
What will be most interesting will be the effect on household health care expenditures, which at the moment comprise 10% of our budget. Our budget post-age 65 assumes some diminution in medical expenses, but I should have some hard figures to plug in after today.
I write all this all the while serendipitously reading yesterday’s front page NY Times article noting that New York State alone has over $200 billion in unfunded public sector health care benefits — that is, benefits promised to public sector employees for which virtually nothing has actually been contributed. The same problem of course affects many other states and local governments. California is perhaps foremost among them. The problem has been growing with lucrative negotiated labor pacts, retirement rules that often permit retirement at age 50 for firemen and policemen, pension rules that allow workers to vastly increase the amounts of their pensions via artificial inflation of wages in their final year or years, etc. No one at the state executive, legislative or administrative leadership levels has been willing to confront the problem or confront labor to halt the steady diminution of states’ power to address other problems like crumbling infrastructure because of these unfunded obligations.
All about which David Brooks wrote a couple days ago in his Op-Ed piece, “The Paralysis of the State.” He writes of what another commentator has called “demosclerosis”:
Over the past few decades, governments have become entwined in a series of arrangements that drain money from productive uses and direct it toward unproductive ones. New Jersey can’t afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state’s employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16 percent a year.
New York City has to strain to finance its schools but must support 10,000 former cops who have retired before age 50.
California can’t afford new water projects, but state cops often receive 90 percent of their salaries when they retire at 50. The average corrections officer there makes $70,000 a year in base salary and $100,000 with overtime (California spends more on its prison system than on its schools).
Unfunded pension and benefit obligations nationwide are $2 trillion, Brooks says.
And we haven’t even mentioned funding for Social Security and Medicare.
I’m not feeling any personal guilt. We’ve been living off our capital for over thirteen years. I started Social Security and my pension a few years early because of the severe recession and to reduce pressure on our own investments. So I’m not at all embarrassed or reluctant about coming into full Medicare benefits.
I just hope they last.
False Confessions Department
Another article, a long one, on why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit.
In recent years, the use of DNA evidence has allowed experts to identify false confessions in unprecedented and disturbing numbers. In the past two decades, researchers have documented some 250 instances of false confessions, many resulting in life sentences and at least four in wrongful executions. Of the 259 DNA exonerations tracked by a major advocacy group, 63 of them—or one out of every four—was found to have involved a false confession.
But worth reading.
Intensity, purely and simply.