The recent general election in the U.K. was a shock and a bad wound to the ruling Tory Party, and to Prime Minister May. Aware of the rising health care costs and average age in Britain – sound familiar? – conservatives sought a way to offset these costs by shockingly passing the responsibility on to the beneficiary. “Under the plans, anyone who receives care in their own home will have to pay for it through the value of their home once they have passed away. This means that the entire value of a person’s home, apart from the first £100,000, will be claimable by the state.” Many of the oldsters were upset about the prospect of paying for care previously covered, and family members who have been happy to have the state take care of granny were angry that they could lose part of their inheritance. Labour pounced and denounced the proposed reform as a “dementia tax.” The prime minister walked back part of the proposal, and promised a cap on total individual payments, an amount to be determined at a later date.
The Tories lost a clear poll majority among older voters following this trial balloon, and of course the election ended in a deadlock and strategic loss for the conservatives.
The English tempest could become a real Depends-storm over here if anyone tries to push serious Medicare reform. In 2015, we spent $540 billion on Medicare, a figure projected by Kaiser to double by $2025. That is predicted to consume only an additional 0.8% of our GDP – but that assumes somewhat steady economic growth without considering what will then be a truly galactic debt burden. Any attempt at reform will bring the Democrats, moderates, media, statists, do-gooders, seniors, doctors’ groups, hospital associations, Big Pharma, upset family members, and probably Greenpeace and PETA swarming out to swamp anyone politically dumb enough to suggest that we can’t afford total, open-ended elder care. And of course, we can’t and never could. The little fuss over just trying to trim Medicaid right now is just a little taste of how bad this is going to get.