The solution is improved Medicare for all

After the November election, there will be a major effort in Congress to pass a budget deal that will make cuts in Social Security, raise the Medicare and Social Security eligibility age, and perhaps more–unless we act to stop it with a solution that is close at hand.

There is agreement from the Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel to liberal economists Dean Baker and Paul Krugman that the pressure will be on to reach a Simpson/Bowles type of compromise.  Such a bipartisan plan would damage our most cherished programs and excuse the dastardly deed by asserting that the cuts are small and necessary because of the deficit.

Those who relentlessly scream at us and finance ads to persuade us that the deficit threatens our grandchildren are obscuring the truth.  The fact is that the transfer of wealth from public funds and the rest of us to the super rich is the real crisis.  But those who have gorged themselves on this massive transfer of wealth also seek to undermine the Medicare and Social Security which are our grandchildren’s heritage from generations of struggles for a better life.

The projected cuts are not minor but very harmful.  Even a small decrease in the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment would deliver an ever increasing downward push on benefits while corporations continue to threaten secure pensions by turning them into lump sums that will fade with the stock market.

Raising the Medicare age to 67 would be disastrous.  There will be no affordable health insurance for those in their 60’s.  The Affordable Care Act allows private insurance companies to charge premiums three times higher based on age.  Under popular pressure, there were regulations placed into the health care reform bill to stop insurance companies from charging higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions.  But the companies were allowed to charge three times the premium based on age. 

Because of this allowed age discrimination, the Kaiser Foundation estimates that an individual of age 60 in 2014 with an annual income of $50,000 will pay a health insurance premium of  over $10,000, or over 20% of income.  That does not include out-of-pocket costs which can add up to an additional $6,000 annually.  That brings the total to 32% of income—a bankrupting figure.

There is a solution that the single payer movement must place on the nation’s table.   Even Bill Clinton said that we could save $1 trillion a year if we adopted the health care system of any of the other developed countries in the world.  No more stewing over the deficit!

An expanded and improved Medicare for all, HR 676, would save Medicare, end the uncontrolled, gargantuan rise in all health care costs, ease the deficit pressure, and actually bring universal health care to the nation. 

This single payer legislation, HR 676, introduced by Congressman John Conyers and co-sponsored by 76 representatives, would divert $400 billion annually from profits and waste generated by the private health insurance industry into care for all.  Care would be expanded and costs bought under control through bulk purchasing, global budgeting, and the elimination of administrative expenses forced upon our system in the pursuit of profit.

Doctors would be freed from insurance industry interference with care.  Patients would be freed to choose their physicians.  Dental, eyeglasses, hearing aids, prescription drugs, long term care, doctors, hospitals, home health, mental health—all medically necessary care would be included.  Our health care costs would stop driving us over the cliff and level off just asCanada’s did when that country fully implemented their single payer health care.

Co-pays and deductibles would be banned ending today’s growing problem that health insurance policies are so miserly that even the insured forego care because they can’t afford it.

Our country spends about twice per capita what other industrialized nations spend on health care, yet our health care system lags far behind at number 37 in the world.

So why are we even debating cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid when the solution is at hand that would bring us both better care and cost controls?  HR 676, an improved Medicare for all, is sitting in the Congress, awaiting the rising of a movement that will insist upon its passage.

Kay Tillow

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care–HR 676

October 6, 2012