Medicare, HMO's, and the Push for Socialized Medicine
Now comes the Green Party and Ralph Nader to push universal healthcare for all Americans. Sure, right, uh huh. Seems I heard that song before, in 1992, from the Clinton Clan. If there is one thing this nation does not need it is "universal" health care administered by an inept, bickering, self-interest-first government. Why aren't they honest enough to say they're socialists and they want to take from the wealthy to redistribute to the poor? That's only classic Marxism, they might as well admit it.
Right now, American health care is a graded caste system based on economic status. What is wrong is the way the lower-economic scale children, the disabled and the low-income elderly are given substandard care compared with those who can pay their way. We give illegal aliens (oops, undocumented workers) better treatment than we afford our own citizens. That is wrong. But the answer is not in more government intervention.
The area of Arizona in which I live has a disproportionately high level of economically prosperous retirees. However, not all are financially prosperous. Some are on very limited incomes due to various reverses in circumstances. I became disabled at 61 and had to live off my meager savings in CD's until I reached the early retirement age of 62, and I was 63 before I applied for and was granted total disability. Money flies when you don't have a paycheck coming in every fifteen days.
Here in Sun City we have various grades of Medicare recipients. At least half, perhaps more, have Medicare plus a supplement they pay varying amounts for, depending on the benefits provided. My late friend who passed away in June of 1999 paid $4,000 per year for her Medicare supplements. There are many plans available, so many that there are now consultants to help one find their way through the maze of options. But all the plans have one thing in common: they cost money. Not everyone can afford to pay $90 to $350 per month in supplemental Medicare insurance premiums.
Working people are now being encouraged to begin "medical savings accounts." That is very interesting, since Medicare deductions were originally supposed to be that very thing! The fact is, the government either cannot or will not lock up the money it withholds from workers so the president or the congress can't rob the Social Security/Medicare trust funds. Nor do I believe Social Security and Medicare should be privatized, because the same profit motive that creates substandard care in HMO's will drive the privatized investment trustees, to the disadvantage of the intended recipients.
When I was recently in the emergency room the admitting clerk asked for my proof of insurance. I told her "I am in the (omitted) HMO plan" and gave her my ID card. She said "oh I see" as if I had just declared myself a welfare recipient. Those before me had declared they were with Blue Cross or similar Medicare supplemental insurance providers. Caste system! I do not want to believe those ahead of me received better care. However, I sense a bad attitude here toward HMO members. And I do not believe it is limited to Sun City, or to Arizona, as bad as most attitudes are in Arizona toward the non-wealthy.
One smaller Arizona city had its only Medicare HMO provider close its doors. What was the problem? A large portion of the town is on Social Security Disability and therefore, cannot pay for Medicare insurance supplements. They were a financial drain to the system and now they're on their own, no matter how many years they worked and had money deducted from their checks. Did the government bail these people out? Are you serious? Of course not!
American health care is still quality care for those with good employer-provided insurance and those whose investments were not used up by unexpected life changes. The people who are getting the shaft are the elderly who were the working poor, those whose care of children and/or parents used up their resources, and the disabled. However, I have found that many recent retirees who think their employer-provided health insurance carries over into retirement are getting a big shock when they find out that they've been shifted to HMO care.
Financial responsibility at all levels of income is something Americans need to re-learn. However, since the government has meddled with health care so that the costs are out of reach for many elderly and disabled, we need to be fiscally responsible and still not punish those who are economically disadvantaged. It is this writer's belief that we'd have a lot more funds in the till if we would stop raiding the cookie jar to pay for needless foreign wars and heavy donations to our nation's enemies. As it is, we have a health care caste system that crosses racial and all other dividing lines except age and disability. I doubt government has any genuine ability to solve the problem, but the private sector that has taken over the HMO business does have the ability, and so do the doctors in the HMO provider industry. No business can afford to go broke, but perhaps there's a lot of excess in administrative costs? I suspect there is indeed.
In fact, the private health care sector itself has a big self-interest at stake. Where will they be under socialized medicine? The time to do something creative is before the government muddles it up even more, and that time is now.