When my partner was laid-off by a multi-national, expletive-deleted, employer in August of 2000, we faced a financial disaster. She had been previously diagnosed with leukemia, had already had multiple lengthy hospitalizations, required weekly visits to a Hematology/Oncology clinic, and would eventually need a Bone Marrow Transplant, an expensive procedure costing more than $200,000. She had only continued working to maintain her health insurance. Now that insurance would be gone in a few months. What were we going to do?
In a weird way that lay-off was the best thing that could have happened to us. It turned out that she was eligible for Medicare because Leukemia is considered a total disability. She applied for coverage immediately after she was laid off. When she finally had the transplant, the costs were covered by Medicare, saving us at least $15,000 in co-payments.
Now the entire country is facing a financial disaster. Private HMO/Insurance companies have bled us to the point of death, while providing an absolute minimum of actual health care. It’s time to expand Medicare coverage to everyone, instead of limiting it to those over 65 and/or totally disabled. The reasons for this are so obvious that they almost defy explanation.
Medicare’s administrative costs are about 4% of its total operating budget. HMO or insurance company administrative costs range between 25%~40%.
The actual price that Medicare pays for a given service or procedure is far lower than a HMO/Insurance company has to pay for the identical procedure. When my partner had her transplant, Medicare paid about $21,000 for a hospital stay and procedure that would have cost a private insurance company over $200,000.
Every employed person is already paying taxes for Medicare. This includes the alleged illegal immigrants. Well if everyone is paying for it, shouldn’t we all be receiving the benefits now instead of waiting until we’re 65 or disabled.
The nurses and nurse practitioners that actually provide most of the services at the clinics would have to spend less time on getting the insurance companies nit-picker approval for every procedure. When I talked to my partner’s nurse practitioner, she told me that she used to spend 4 hours every day phoning the insurance companies trying to get approval for every procedure. They eventually had to hire another nurse just to deal with the companies.
Expanding Medicare would be the least expensive way to resolve the present Health Care crisis. Medicare is a system already in place and functioning fairly well. All it would take is a few minor tweaks to expand coverage, instead of designing a set of entirely new programs.
Some estimates predict that it would save the economy 300 billion dollars to adopt universal Medicare. It would eliminate that alphabet soup of federal and state programs that were designed to deal with the health issues of specific communities, such as Medicaid, Medical, SCHIP, and Workers Compensation Health programs. Industry would not be required to provide health insurance to their employees, (Ford Motor Company consistently pays more in employee Health Insurance each year than they do in sheet metal). We’d all have access to clinics and preventive care, instead of having to resort to hospital emergency rooms, which typically cost 5 to 6 times more.
President Obama and his health-care advisors, already know all of this. So why has there been no mention of a Medicare expansion program from the White House? The White House dismisses a universal health care plan because they say “Americans demand a choice”. Well, there is no choice even for those of us who are employed with healthcare, We get the insurance company that our employer provides. If your employer decides to change insurance companies, it’s “Fuck You Charlie”. He also says that Americans are distrustful of bureaucracy. Well, bureaucracy is what we’ve got. The only actual choice is whether health insurance will be administered by government or corporate bureaucrats. Government bureaucrats are at least slightly accountable. Corporate drones answer only to their masters.
Obama’s plan is designed to simply “reign in” the worst excesses of the private insurance companies, while ensuring they continue their bloated existence, although they may be slightly less bloated than before. But any plan regulating health care is bound to be a very expensive failure and political suicide as long as the Health Insurance Industry and their corresponding thousands of lobbyists control congress through both parties.
Obama could have promoted a Universal Health Care program. Given the enthusiastic support that he had when first elected, and from the health-care rallies that I’ve actually attended, and the people I’ve talked to, including a lot of medical professionals, Obama might have generated enough genuine grass-roots support to overcome the astro-turf, “tea-bag”, and Fox-news style corporate propaganda campaigns. He might have forced congress to legislate some genuine changes in this country. Instead he’s chosen the path of political expediency. That expediency has cost him all credibility and will probably lead to his political downfall.
When Obama was inaugurated president he promised to “Defend the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic”. The “Denial of Care” policy means that Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna, Human Health and all the other HMO/ health insurance companies are directly responsible for more American deaths in any given month, than Al-Qaeda has had for its entire existence.