Felicia Muftic – Fearmongers warp facts about health-care reform
August 2, 2009
My husband, a semi-retired physician with 40 years in private practice, was standing in line at Safeway this week when he struck up a conversation with two couples about his age.
When they learned he was a doctor, they asked him what he thought of the president’s health care reform plan. He said he was in favor.
“Well, we are not.” they responded. “We do not want the government getting between us and our doctor. We do not want a government takeover of our insurance.”
He responded: “I am in favor of choice. Everyone should have a choice between their private plan and a public option, and Obama’s plan provides that choice.”
He left it at that, but I would have taken the discussion a little further: Did you know those of us of a certain age have already chosen a public option? It is called Medicare. We on Medicare choose our doctor, hospital and no one has rationed our care. The only problem we have is that it still does not cover all of our medical costs and it is going broke.
Many of us pay a bundle each month for a supplemental. One in five of us on Medicare subscribe to Medicare Advantage for a supplemental plus Medicare combination. Medicare Advantage is administered by a private insurer who in turn charges taxpayers an extra 13 percent over actual processing of claims to do it. Total savings by eliminating Medicare Advantage over 10 years: $160 billion. That is equivalent to over 18 percent of the total cost of the proposed Obama reform plan covering everyone of all ages in the United States. Studies have shown that no one on Medicare Advantage is any healthier than those who are not.
What does concern me is that health insurance premiums for all are projected to increase 70 percent in the near future. Unless something is done soon, our supplementals will rise, too. What is going to impact both the costs of health care delivery and health insurance is doing nothing; you and I are going to pay more for the same coverage. Our beloved Medicare will go belly up in 10 years and be in the red as well. At that point, we will be faced with a huge taxpayer infusion into Medicare or buying insurance on the open market using our savings and pensions.
The rhetoric from those opposing health care reform has become shrill and frightening.
No one, including President Obama, is advocating cutting Medicare benefits, though we should oppose giving a virtual blank check to an independent commission with the power to do it. No piece of legislation being seriously considered now is moving us on to Medicaid. In fact, there is a separate bill going through Congress to strengthen Medicare, which Obama supports, to add more people into the system, and compensate doctors more fully for their services so more docs will accept senior patients.
It is an outrage for the extreme right to scare the heebeegeebies out of us old folks, and no one is advocating that the government makes the decision to pull the plug at the end of life. No rational discussion I can find equates “Obama care with Kevorkian care.” In fact, Obama has meticulously avoided endorsing such policies.
There are proposals being discussed in Congress to encourage input of doctors, family and patients in end-of-life decisions. However, the “Kevorkian” tag is irresponsibility of the highest order preying on the fears and ignorance of people about complex issues.
Instead of getting information about what is being proposed regarding Medicare reform from political commercials and talking TV and radio heads, I suggest that each person in the county take the responsibility to be informed from less politically motivated sources. Recognize, too, that there are many different proposals on the table now being worked out among at least six committees in the House and Senate. Health care reform is a work in progress and it is like a camel being invented by a committee. The fat lady has not sung and vigilance is indeed a rational strategy.
AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) is the highest profile and most recognized watchdog for the over-55 crowd there is. I recommend that you track the legislation going through Congress now through the AARP official Web site: http://www.aarp.org and click the Health Care Reform tab. Another source: National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, http://www.ncpssm.org.
The plug that will be pulled will not be on the end o’lifers but from the Medicare system itself by 2019 unless we deal with it now. Even the most liberal health care bill going through the House requires 10 years to fully implement. That means by beginning reform now, we will just cross the finish line in the nick of time.
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