We have been trying to ignore the brewing battle over Medicare in Washington, at least until the preliminary skirmishes are over and one party succeeds in making the other the scapegoat for the whole darn mess.

But it's hard to avoid the nagging feeling that it's deja vu all over again, as the politicos concoct another Rube Goldberg contraption to reduce the cost of the program. In particular, we worry about the apparently attractive notion that the government simply can offload some of the Medicare burden into the hands of managed care providers. Frankly, it's sad to see how policy makers and the health care industry are so ready to declare this part of the economy a "market failure" and to abandon the consumer in the process.