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Web letter by Edith Kenna: Medicare for all most effective solution to nation’s health care crisis

July 30 was Medicare’s 48th birthday. Medicare is the most popular insurer in the United States, beating out all the private plans. Its consumers consistently rate it higher than private insurance, and its overhead is 1.4 percent, unlike the private insurers who claim to struggle to meet an overhead of just 20 percent, in keeping with Affordable Care Act rules.

Congress is about to make its 40th attempt to override ACA, or Obamacare as we currently know it. Wasting their time and our money again – no reason to think the 40th effort is anything but another PR stunt. No one has anything on the table to keep the good parts of Obamabcare; close the Medicare doughnut hole for drug coverage, keep young adults on their parents’ insurance plan until they reach 26, etc.

Obamacare has its good points and its bad, but much we will not know until it rolls out. Obamacare is the grand experiment. Too bad, in 2008, all options for insuring Americans were not allowed a full airing.

Medicare for All has been demonized as “socialized medicine,” though all western democracies have some form of national health insurance except the United States. Other democracies took charge of looming health care costs years ago – Germany in the 1800s. Germany still has an economy that rivals ours, and the population can go to the doctor and keep coverage if they get sick or lose their job.

But here in the U.S. big health care lobbies would not allow us to have all the information. After all, they insisted upon the for-profit model, which excludes the sick and makes money for private companies. Remember, insurance companies only make a profit by denying care. Strange kind of health care industry.

The sick are not profitable so, in America, we prefer to exclude them or charge them such exorbitant fees that the policies are dropped. Or perhaps the sick then obtain government-financed Medicaid or Medicare – or die. To force the insurance companies to cover us all, rivers of green money from taxpayers must go to subsidize these already super-profitable companies. It’s almost like they had to be bribed.

In Obamacare, we still have no idea what anything will look like for the individuals to be covered. How affordable will these plans be; what coverage will be offered? And of course, we all love reading insurance policies, comparing to the best of our abilities all the little loopholes that deny coverage. You see, in America health care is for profit, not for health care. Reforming health insurance was not the answer; reforming health care offered the opportunities.

As Medicare turns 48, please remember there still is another option. Medicare is not a stand-alone law; it is an add-on to Social Security. It was a program intended at first to cover the elderly and widows that could be rolled out over time to cover those who needed it. It could be rolled out incrementally; it could, and still can, be modified. It is a framework to reform health care, not to reform the health insurance industry. Too bad big money did the talking and the walking ... now the complaining.

Expanding Medicare, making it a better program for Americans and health care providers (forget the middlemen) would be easier. It is always easier to expand an existing program. If this legislation is considered in the Senate that only adjusts the amount of revenue coming in and out, it can be done by the process called reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority vote. We could actually modify to meet our present needs something that has worked for 48 years and has consistently high ratings with its consumers. Yes, it would cost money. Doing nothing costs money as health care costs are one sixth of the gross domestic product. Obamacare costs money, and the product may not turn out to be the best for the people.

Medicare is not perfect by any means, but it can be improved. It’s a leader in keeping costs down, it already insures those with the greatest health care needs – the elderly and those with disabilities. Adding the healthy can most assuredly be accommodated.

Happy birthday to Medicare! It’s time we all see a doctor when we are sick, move anyplace in the country and keep our own health care, start our own business and keep coverage, and keep our coverage if we lose our job. After all, most congressman and -women keep their health coverage when they lose their job. That’s because we the citizens pay for it ... but not for us. We should not face financial ruin if we get sick. America cannot be strong if its citizens are sick. Everybody in – nobody out. America deserves health care. It’s in the public interest.

EDITH KENNA

Fort Wayne

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