If you’re 77 years old and receive a medical diagnosis that implies you have eighteen months to live without treatment, the government will spend large sums of money on trying to extent your life twelve months further. The government won’t pay for you to take a trip to visit the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank or to see Michelangelo’s David in Florence. But would it be so crazy for a fatally ill 77 year-old art lover who’s never been to Italy to prefer the chance to see her favorite artists’ iconic works in person over the chance of receiving extra medical care? I don’t think so. The point of our retirement programs should be to deliver high quality of life to senior citizens, and that militates at the margin for more Social Security rather than more Medicare. But the way our programs are set up, per retiree Medicare spending will grow much more rapidly than per retiree Social Security spending. That’s not the most cost-effective way to deliver high-quality retirement to people.
A point often lost in the argument about health care spending.