Medicare exemplifies the misleading nature of the 'option' portion of the public option. Proponents would have us believe that the public program (that's what I'll call it) will compete side by side with private plans. But, as Medicare demonstrates, a government run insurance provider--which by its nature is not forced to practice fiscal restraint or even operate in the same realm of economics as the private sector--will always crowd out private firms, not due to superior care or service provided, but rather by its ability to offer exceedingly low rates for an expensive product, rates that private firms could never hope to offer while remaining solvent and economically viable.
That does not mean, however, that Americans don't shoulder the burdens of Medicare's fiscal irresponsibility. Cost overruns are covered by tax dollars that must increase to continue to insure a growing population of seniors. The difference is billed to the taxpayers. It becomes an unseen entitlement cost. The fiscal black hole of Medicare gets lost in the thousands of pages of the federal registry, and the nation's absurdly complex--and often contradictory--tax code.
But why should seniors complain? They are not the ones shouldering the burden, and very often they accept benefits from Medicare that cost far more than they ever paid into the system. Furthermore, Medicare taxes go directly into the benefits payed for seniors currently enrolled in the program. It is an illusion that we pay into the system, and over time build a nest egg on which to rely when we hit 65. The money filters through Washington and right to the hospitals and HMOs providing care. Medicare has become a giant ponzi scheme, with current wage-earners paying for the lavish health benefits of the retired.
The famed Madoff ponzi scheme imploded when a financial collapse revealed that Bernie didn't have the money to pay back his clients. It took a massive shock throughout the system to break the feeble solvency of the scheme. Likewise, when the boomers retire en masse (it's already begun), they will start demanding their investments back, and the ensuing shock will cause Medicare to collapse.