Republicans are traveling the country conducting town halls where they are trying to explain their votes for Congressman Ryan’s radical Medicare overhaul. Their talking points include repeating that Medicare isn’t sustainable and something must be done to halt runaway health care spending. They are mistaken because what is unsustainable is our broken health care system. Medicare isn’t the contributing factor to that. Private health insurers abusing clients, patients and taxpayers are the problem.
Twenty five per cent of our health care dollars are wasted. We spend double the amount on medical care per capita than any other western civilized nation. We have only the 37th best health care system. Our dollars aren’t buying us quality because too many of them are wasted.
Waste in health care is vast. CEO salaries in the millions of dollars, marketing expenses, salaries for doctors whose sole mission is to deny coverage to critically ill patients when they need it most. Overhead costs in private industry dwarf that of Medicare: 2-3% compared to 25-30%. 59 million uninsured people wait until care is far more expensive before seeking treatment. 18,000 Americans die each year due to lack of coverage. We went to war for seven years (so far) because 3200 of our fellow citizens die yet every year we allow 18,000 to expire because we won’t fix our health care system.
Our priorities are all out of order. People going to an emergency room instead of a community clinic raises costs astronomically. This is waste. Insurance companies continue shifting costs to consumers and patients until our out of pocket costs are more than we can bear. We aren’t getting quality and we aren’t getting good outcomes. If our health care system were a Defense Department program we would scrap it and start anew. This is where medicare becomes the solution.
At present Medicare is only eligible for people over age 65, the permanently, totally disabled and orphans. It pays on an 80/20 basis meaning it covers 80% of costs and either the patient or supplemental insurance the remaining 20%. It also covers most prescription drugs. By expanding the coverage and extending it to every American we can create a health care for all single payer system. We already have a management system in place and people love Medicare. Eliminating the waste in the current broken system means we can cover everyone 100% with no co-pays or deductibles.
Vermont just passed, and its Governor signed, a single payer system. Here in Pennsylvania efforts by a non profit group called Healthcare For All PA led by Chuck Pennacchio is trying to pass a comprehensive single payer system. All medical expenses would be covered including mental health. It would have no co-pays, no deductibles and cost each person a 3% personal income tax each year and a 10% tax on gross payrolls. It would save the Commonwealth, counties, school districts and other municipalities billions every year over the current system. That would balance our state budget and lower many local taxes. Meanwhile every Pennsylvanian would have full access to quality medical care. That, in turn, would lure businesses and jobs. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce.
Therefore we see that Medicare isn’t the problem but the solution. What is being proposed on these state levels can be easily done nationally by expanding Medicare and enrolling everyone. We can cover everyone, make health care a right, save 18,000 lives per year, have a better system and better outcomes while cutting costs to something we can afford.