In a bulletin published by the Social Security Administration in 1962, three years before Congress established Medicare, 50 percent of the aged population had no health insurance of any kind.
“Those aged persons most in need of health insurance are the least likely to have it – persons in poor health, the very old, those not employed, and those with low incomes,” it said.
More than 99 percent of elders are now covered by Medicare and the poverty rate among elders has dropped from 35.2 percent in 1959 to 8.9 percent in 2009, although the drop is mostly attributable to changes to Social Security and only somewhat to Medicare, Ronnie Bennett, who writes Time Goes By, said Monday on Medicare turning 47 years old today.
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In testimony delivered by Donald M. Berwick, M.D., M.P.P. in November of 2010 before the U.S. Senate Committe on Finance, he said, “Millions of people across the country are already benefiting from this law, including the more than 100 million people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Because of the Affordable Care Act, the fiscal future of Medicare is stronger, new tools to fight Medicare and Medicaid fraud are returning money to the Trust Funds and the Treasury, Medicare beneficiaries have new benefits and lower costs, and State Medicaid programs have additional resources and options to expand coverage, which is especially important in these challenging economic times.”
In a letter penned to President Obama from Healthcare-NOW, a group pushing for a national single-payer health care system, Medicare is not the problem but the solution to the health care crisis in America.
Urging the immediate expansion of Medicare to everyone in the United States, it goes on to say, “The implementation of the Affordable Care Act is not the solution; when it is fully implemented tens of millions will be left without insurance, tens of millions more will be left without adequate insurance and the cost of health care will continue to skyrocket.”
The group says that for many of the most vulnerable, “Medicare and Medicaid are their last protection from financial and medical catastrophe,” and speaks out for these vulnerable patients who are not represented in health policy discussions. “Instead, policy is dictated by special interests profiting from our health care system, not by those depending upon it to stay alive,” it says.
“America needs cost-effective universal health care as exists in every other industrialized country,” the letter authors wrote, adding, “No other nation uses our unique private insurance system which penalizes the sick by charging them more, by reducing their benefits, or by denying care altogether. None allow private insurance companies to place profit over coverage. All of them encourage health care by reducing or eliminating deductibles and co-pays. And all of them provide better care to more people for less money than we do.”
Instead of greater privatization of the health care system, it asks President Obama to extend Medicare to every person in the United States and then work to improve it.
We can no longer tolerate having the highest health care costs with the worst outcomes in the industrialized world. Our own publicly funded health care systems (Medicare and the Veterans Administration) can and do provide better care at lower cost to even the most vulnerable patients.
“We cannot rely either on our private insurance industry or the ACA to remedy our crisis,” it says, finishing with, “We implore you to immediately protect, improve, and expand Medicare. Every person in the United States needs and deserves access to health care.”
Mitt Romney’s plan, which is primarily based on the Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan budget plan, would replace Medicare with a voucher system that the Congressional Budget Office estimates would increase annual costs to elders by an average of $6400.
According the U.S. Census Bureau, median income in 2009 for people 65 and older, was $25,877 for men and $15,282 for women. Critics of voucherizing Medicare, as Romney and Ryan would do, wonder where that $6,400 would come from and still allow elders a roof over their heads and food to eat?
According to President Obama’s re-election website, more than 47 million Medicare beneficiaries now have access to free health services—including an annual wellness visit, mammograms, and other health screenings—to help detect and treat medical conditions early.
Mitt Romney’s campaign website says, “Unfortunately, the transformation in American health care set in motion by Obamacare will take us in precisely the wrong direction.”
In Mitt’s Plan, “On his first day in office, Mitt Romney will issue an executive order that paves the way for the federal government to issue Obamacare waivers to all fifty states. He will then work with Congress to repeal the full legislation as quickly as possible.”
In place of the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Romney will “pursue policies that give each state the power to craft a health care reform plan that is best for its own citizens. The federal government’s role will be to help markets work by creating a level playing field for competition.”
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