Chart of the Day: Public Ignorance About Medicare is Really, Really High


Here’s your Medicare myth of the day: It turns out that a majority of Americans believe that retirees get about as much from Medicare as they pay in during their lifetimes. Or maybe even less.

As it turns out, this is precisely the opposite of the truth. The best estimate out there suggests that a single male will pay $60,000 in Medicare taxes over his lifetime and receive $170,000 in benefits during retirement.1 That’s a 3:1 benefit ratio—and the numbers are more favorable for women and way more favorable for couples. Medicare is just about the most amazing bargain imaginable. Most of us don’t come within a country mile of actually paying for all the care we get.

It also turns out that when you ask people why Medicare costs are rising, they rate fraud and poor management at the top and new technology at the bottom. The truth, again, is just the opposite. Medicare has some fraud problems, but they’re fairly modest. It’s basically a pretty well managed program. New drugs and new treatments, however, are responsible for nearly half of the increase in Medicare costs over the past few decades. It’s the #1 cost driver by a ton. Adrianna McIntyre has the details here.

What this shows, once again, is the power of right-wing ideas in American discourse. After years of misleading the public about death panels and waste and taxes, the public pretty much believes it. Medicare isn’t welfare; we paid for it! Costs aren’t rising because we all insist on the latest and greatest treatments even if they don’t work; it’s lousy management! Welcome to conservo-land.

1Since this always comes up: yes, this is adjusted for inflation and investment returns. From the report: “The ‘lifetime value of taxes’ is based upon the value of accumulated taxes, as if those taxes were put into an account that earned a 2 percent real rate of return (that is, 2 percent plus inflation). The ‘lifetime value of benefits’ represents the amount needed in an account (also earning a 2 percent real interest rate) to pay for those benefits.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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