Dear Editor: Change means the unknown. Humans don’t like the unknown. Think how much we benefit today from the thousands of things at one time unknown. We should not turn away from the unknown. We should not immediately embrace it either. We should look openly at it; discern its true meaning; get to know it in detail; see what’s in it for each of us as well as for us as a nation.
Medicare for All. It’s not so much about health care as it is about “all.” That’s the issue. All. If it’s not “all,” then let’s get busy deciding who it’s not about. If we don’t want “all,” then whom should we exclude? The poor? Minorities? Visitors? Refugees? Immigrants? Those with pre-existing medical conditions? Those who cannot pay? If we do want “all,” then how best to ensure that not one person is left out? Not one. Our current system of health care does not accomplish that. It does not. It does not! So, now what?
Public option? That’s essentially what Medicare is. Insurance for elderly Americans was not available in mid-twentieth century America. These were people who worked all their lives; upon retirement they were no longer eligible for group insurance through employers. They were at the age where health problems are most likely to be extensive. What were they to do? At least by then they had Social Security which they had paid into all their lives, but it wasn’t much. It wasn’t enough to live on and pay for extensive medical care. This was considered a problem of conscience, of compassion.
This is the perfect place for government to step in, since no one was serving this sector except individual doctors and clinics and hospitals who simply charged their younger patients more in order to charge their older patients less or not at all. So essentially, many Americans were paying for the health care of elderly people either through their own higher medical costs or through paying those considerable costs for their own family members at great burden to their own immediate families. Why not have all workers, not just citizens who needed health care, pay each their fair share to take care of all elderly people across the country? That was a no-brainer.
Today, we all pay into Medicare and it has worked quite well for a long time. Unfortunately, due to so many problems in our mostly private system, more and more citizens cannot afford health care even with insurance, even private, individual, very expensive policies. How can we, as a nation, fix this? Those not on Medicare are much healthier than those 65 years or older. Still, private and group insurance is too expensive for many of them. Should government step in here again? Medicare would benefit from an influx of healthier people, maybe a phase-in over time with them paying full premiums, not supported by tax collection. Or a public option could offer lower premiums than commercial policies due to no profit, no investors to pay, no advertising, no marketing and other costs as with Medicare.
We have the Affordable Care Act, which has been watered down and altered so much now it cannot work as intended. At least the exclusion of previous medical conditions is still in force, barely. Whatever the solution, it must be thoroughly comprehensive, not piecemeal. Not dealing with just drug costs; not dealing with just surprise billing; not dealing with just this and just that. It must be all that, some form of Medicare for all.