Guest Viewpoint: Universal health care is needed now
July 28, 2013
written by Cecile Lawrence
No matter what you call it, it’s past time for comprehensive, universal health care coverage.
July 30 marks the 48th anniversary of the establishing of Medicare and Medicaid — but since 1965 both have been treated like pieces on a political chessboard.
Today’s Medicare includes a deluge of incoming mail from private corporations when a person turns 65 years old; confusion about what’s covered, what’s not and by whom; the infamous “donut hole”; and still, Medicare does not cover dental care nor vision.
That premiums, co-pays and deductibles are part of this cruel game reveals the attitude of the country towards its elders and an assumption that people will not value something unless they have to pay money for it.
People unhappy with this situation have been pushing for a nationwide single-payer health care system, as present in a number of culturally advanced countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Taiwan.
The other term that advocates are using to signify universal health care coverage is “improved, expanded Medicare for all.” Recent polls by Yahoo/AP, Times Magazine, and Rasmussen might point to a reason for this change in terminology. Those who care nothing about access to health care by our elders have been deliberately confusing us. A single-payer system has the aura of being a new and thus risky change. Better to stick with what you know, with Medicare as a term, even though in practice the system has an increasing number of gaps and flaws, totally brought on by political finagling.
Medicare is more restrictive than a single-payer system, but it covers a lot of the oldest and sickest with more insurance than they would otherwise have. The traditional Medicare program allocates only 1 percent of total spending to overhead. But when the privatized portion of Medicare, known as Medicare Advantage, is included, that overhead zooms to 6 percent, according to a study in the June 2013 Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.
Original Medicare’s overhead would be lower were it not for the fear-mongering that supported the increased presence of private insurance corporations in the country’s health care system, grossly expanding into Medicare. With the many TV and other ads drumming into people’s heads that they should not trust the “government,” a once-good system has now been made much less so.
People need to stop being so influenced by TV ads and political framing machines, and face the bald truth that the health care system in this country is in an increasingly worse mess, that the Affordable Care Act’s changes still leave out vast numbers of people from coverage, that the steady erosion of Medicare over the years is shameful.
It’s past time for comprehensive, universal health care coverage that includes dental and vision coverage; has no co-pays, deductibles, or private insurance companies; and does not deluge people with confusing paperwork. This country must stop being mean and miserly toward its elders. What matters is health coverage, not worrying about what you call it.
Lawrence lives in Apalachin.