Make Medicare available to all Americans

August 10, 2011

Published 7/31/2011 on democratandchronicle.com
by Lisabeth Frarey

For those who believe health care is a human right, the case for Medicare For All has always been good. The economic crisis makes it stronger.

Congress and the president battle over cutting the deficit and raising the debt ceiling, and look to Medicare cuts as part of the deal; Xerox retirees fight for their lifetime health benefits; a 2 percent New York state property tax cap means cuts in Medicaid; Excellus premiums rise 8.9 to 19.9 percent; labor unions fight to exist; and Kathy Hochul wins the 26th Congressional district because the people, and Tea Party members, want to save Medicare.

For 46 years, America has guaranteed health care for seniors, and since 1972, the disabled. Both groups increasingly depend on Medicare to maintain a minimum standard of living.

Americans rejected Medicare vouchers because they know the “free” market will not meet their needs. When will we demand that our representatives forgo the politically expedient cost-cutting strategy? They must reorganize how we pay for health care, guided by our value of taking care of our own rather than taking care of corporate profit.

Starting from scratch is unnecessary, contrary to President Obama’s excuse in his first State of the Union speech. We can build on Medicare’s efficient use of our tax dollars (3 percent administrative overhead), keep our choice of doctor and medical facility, and cover literally everybody — even add long-term care — all for less than we already pay in taxes, premiums, co-pays and deductibles by cutting out the waste and profit of the private insurance industry.

And as a bonus, we eliminate the impending individual mandate. Instead of raising the eligibility age for Medicare, we should be lowering it to 55 as a start.

Help make Medicare For All/single payer health care a reality in America. Urge your congressional representative to sign onto HR 676 and your senators to introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

Petition Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to provide Vermont with waivers from the current health reform law so that they can proceed on the path to single payer or support S 915. Urge your New York state legislators to sign onto A 7860/S 5425.

The Urban Institute found that NYS could save $20 billion annually over 10 years by moving to a single-payer system.

Frarey is a member of several local organizations advocating Medicare For All, including the Interfaith Health Care Coalition and Single Payer New York.