Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Medical card fiasco

To be honest I haven't got a lot to say about the medical card and the government's handling of it since the budget last week. I don't even have a clear idea what a medical card is or what it's used for. I don't have one, which explains a lot, I suppose. I have this vague understanding that a medical card ensures free medical care for poor people, but sometime in the not-too-distant past it was extended to include anyone over 70 years of age.

All of that is a preamble to my view that I just don't know how the government didn't see that taking something away from old people - even if they've only had it a few years - was always going to be a problem. Once people get used to an entitlement, it's very hard to take it away from them. And when you're taking it away from either the very young or the very old it doesn't much matter about the rights and wrongs of it, you're on a political loser.

Defending such a move in print, even indirectly or only partially, is a brave decision. I applaud Sarah Carey for her article this morning pointing out that many of those who are opposed to the government's recent attempts to cut back on the medical card for old people were among those who opposed the granting of it in the first place. She also pointed out that the number of old people getting private insurance had increased since the free medical card was introduced. (I bet her life won't be worth living for a while after this column.)

Carey's column combined with what to me seemed unseemly behavior at the protest yesterday has almost made me sympathetic for the government. Almost.