Medicare works. That’s the fact that Republicans headed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) want us to conveniently ignore. It has successfully delivered medical coverage to Americans since its inception in 1965, with lower overhead than private insurers.
As Sen. Ted Kennedy observed during the debate leading to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, Medicare was imperfect at first and has been gradually improved over ensuing decades. The overall success of the program makes it the obvious choice for a future public option for all of our citizens. But first, we need to make further improvements to ensure coverage for the Boomers now entering retirement.
1. We need to defeat the GOP plan to wreck Medicare by converting it to a private plan. One only needs to think back to Republican efforts to privatize Social Security during the Bush administration to see the madness of the Ryan plan. If retirees had been forced into dependence on Wall Street in 2004, just imagine the outcome when the GoldmanSachs/BankAmerica/WellsFargo/BearStearns/YouNameIt Deregulatory Bubble popped in 2008!
Private insurers siphon your health care dollars into the pockets of investors and top executives. Private insurance should always be an option, not a requirement.
2. We can craft a Medicare Health Savings Plan that puts more medical decisions in the hands of citizens. If a portion of the benefits available to recipients are allocated to a savings plan, and a portion of money not spent each year can be diverted to payment of premiums (or possibly to non-medical uses), there will be a positive incentive for health care consumers to bid down the cost of health care. Sound complicated? It’s not.
The average benefits paid per recipient are currently about $8,000 (nationwide). What if we cut monthly premiums in half for people who use $4,000 or less in a given year? That would save recipients anywhere from $600 (for those only paying Part B) to $2,700 (for those paying the highest Part A premium) per year. Further, we could cut premiums by 3/4 for those using $2,000 or less, with savings of $900 to $4,050 respectively.
This would encourage people to seek treatment outside the Medicare system for minor ailments, and encourage care providers to offer discount rates for those not making claims through the system. (Claims take a whole lot of office time.)
Bottom line: Medicare benefits workers who have paid into our system of health care. “Entitlement” is not a four letter word. American workers are fully entitled to the benefits they have earned.
And finally, I have to ask, “Do you trust Rep. Heath Shuler to defend Medicare, given that he voted against the PPACA?” He apparently doesn’t believe we should be aiming for the kind of health care system enjoyed by every other modern industrial democracy.