Obama should expand Medicare for all

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By Al Norman

A group called “Health Care Now” has been urging President Barack Obama to look backwards for the solution to health care reform.

They want “Medicare For All,” and they argue that all the president’s goals can be accomplish by extending Medicare coverage to every American. In his State of the Union speech, the President challenged anyone who “has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.”

Health Care Now is letting the President know. They says that “improved” Medicare For All will:

•Provide comprehensive medical, mental, dental, vision and prescription coverage to all people from birth to death without gaps.

•End the profit-driven practices of insurance companies denying and restricting coverage.

•Be the only solution with built-in cost controls, with immediate savings of $400 billion per year by removing the high administrative and marketing costs from 1,300 private insurance plans.

•Put the brakes on our health care costs which are spiraling out of control, relieve businesses of the financial burden of paying for health benefits.

•Relieve the financial stress placed on Medicare from providing coverage for just the elderly and individuals with disabilities.  Everybody, healthy and ill, will contribute to the Medicare fund throughout their lives, and Medicare will be there for them when they need it.

The Medicare For All solution is so simple it’s elegant. But the insurance industry is entrenched, wealthy and not ready to give up their profits. The big business community is also out to gut health care reform. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the largest lobbyist in America today.

I hate to think what would have happened in 1965 if the current cast of characters in Washington had been around when Medicare was being debated. The same voices today were present then. Ronald Regan was denouncing Medicare as socialist medicine — and that rhetoric is still with us 45 years later.

No one is saying that Medicare today is a perfect model. If you have something wrong with your eyes, teeth or feet, forget about Medicare. And if you need long-term care, don’t run to Medicare. That’s why Health Care Now talks about “improved” Medicare For All. The administrative costs are low — and even with the deductibles and copayments — most seniors would not trade Medicare away for the uncertainty of a private insurance policy. A Medicare For All would include all Americans, and would have the best chance of keeping costs constrained, because it would have the largest risk pool of people paying in, and the negotiating clout to get acceptable rates out of providers.

Medicare is a way that we, the consumers, can get organized and be a potent lobbying force for affordable health care.

That sounds a lot better than what they are jousting about in the halls of Congress these days.

Al Norman is the Executive Director of Mass Home Care. He can be reached at 413-773-5555 x 2295,or at info@masshomecare.org.