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You wouldn't know it from television news, but not all elders are as rude and ignorant as those who shout down legislators and other constituents who have serious issues and questions to discuss. Most elders are smart enough to know that “death panels” are a nasty, little fiction, that no one's Medicare benefits will be cut, and we certainly don't screech “Nazi” when we disagree. Seeing those other elders has been a personal embarrassment to me.
Today Time Goes By showcases elders who have followed the health care reform debate, who have informed themselves and want to make a thoughtful contribution. Keep in mind that we, unlike younger people, lived many decades with private health coverage and now have experience with our single-payer system, Medicare, so we are in a better position than many younger people to intelligently compare how these two systems work.
(By the way, Medicare wins.)
My own contribution to this collection of elder essays in support of health care reform is at the bottom of this post. Here are links to elderbloggers' essays on the subject written especially for this project. More will be added to the top of the list throughout the day as I receive their links.
It's Not Reform Without a Public Option By Ronni Bennett of this blog
Here is my question for elders who have Medicare and younger people who have private coverage who oppose health care reform: why is it all right for you to be well cared for by your physician while tens of millions of other Americans are not? How do you justify that?
The American health care system is broken. Insurance premiums are off the charts and continue, as they have for the past ten years or so, to increase at about seven percent annually. For those who want to keep our current system, remember that you're lucky to get a three percent salary increase each year. How long can you continue to afford coverage at these increasing rates?
More than sixty percent of personal bankruptcies are attributable in full or in part to catastrophic health care costs. Each of you covered by private insurance is only an auto accident or terrible diagnosis away from the same disaster.
Median family income in the U.S. is a little more than $50,000 per year. Health coverage generally costs a family of four about $12,000 a year leaving $38,000, before taxes, for everything else. How is it possible to raise two children on that?
That 46 or 47 million figure that is bandied about as the number of uninsured Americans was released in 2007. Since then tens of millions of workers have lost their jobs. Currently, 6.2 million are collecting unemployment checks. How many others have run out of that benefit? How many have had to drop their health coverage? Some sources, including the president, say 14,000 Americans lose their coverage every day.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress and some Blue Dog Democrats are trying to kill the public option in the health care reform bills. Even President Obama has implied that it is not necessary to reform, although with all the various pronouncements this past week, it is hard to know who in the federal government stands where on the public option.
The idea behind it is that it would keep the for-profit insurers honest, force them to keep premiums at a reasonable level to compete. The insurers are screaming bloody murder about the public option (and contributing millions of dollars to the campaign chests of our legislators to influence them) saying that a public option from the government would dominate the market, even put them out of business.
Is that true, do you think? A good comparison is government Medicare versus private Advantage Plan Medicare. Even though those plans cost more than traditional Medicare, they have captured 20 percent of the elder market.
Insurers would argue that 20 percent isn't enough. Of course not. They want to retain the 100 percent of the non-Medicare market they have now. But they have priced themselves out of the pocketbooks of most Americans. Someone must put a brake on their greed and the public option, along with other changes to the system, would help do that.
Without a public option, there will be no reform in the health care bill that finally emerges from the committees. It will be the same old system, more unaffordable than before and will leave more than one-sixth of Americans still without coverage and therefore without access to a physician.
That is – or should be – morally unacceptable to every American citizen.