REMINDER: Don't forget the new FEATURED ELDERBLOGS in the left sidebar. Each Monday five blogs are selected from the complete list to be featured for the week.
Having misplaced the link and having no luck with Google, I must ask you to trust me: somewhere a week or two ago, there was a news story about elders being the biggest threat to a single-payer system or public option in whatever health care reform bill emerges from Congress.
The thinking of the writer was that since elders have their own single-payer system, Medicare, they don't give a damn about the rest of the country and therefore won't support reform for everyone.
And this morning in The New York Times, a Maine small-business owner echoed that sentiment. People on public programs like Medicaid and Medicare
"...are less likely to speak up [about health care reform]," he said. "'It does not affect them the way it affects us.'"
What hogwash. Elders have children, grandchildren and in some cases great grandchildren and they are acutely aware of their progeny's struggle to pay for health care with and without coverage. Many elders are helping out their families every way they can. Of course (depending on party affiliation and political ideology), they would support affordable health care for their children.
The underlying implication that elders have no interest in the well-being of anyone but themselves is repulsive. In fact, elderhood is the time of life when people generally become less self-centered and more concerned with the greater good. So let's have no more of that sort of ageist scare tactic – especially among so-called progressives.
That's personal enough, but then along comes my own Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, a Republican who sits on the Senate Finance Committee that is working on a health care reform bill expected to be released in August. Last week in an interview with AP, Senator Snowe said:
“...it would be unfair to include a government-run health insurance option that would take effect immediately.”
How would it be unfair, you ask? Wait for it...
"If you establish a public option at the forefront that goes head-to-head and competes with the private health insurance market...” she explained, “the public option will have significant price advantages.”
I don't mean to be rude about it, but well - duh, Senator. That is the point. It is not like the private sector has a track record of offering affordable coverage even while cherry picking insureds, misrepresenting coverage and rejecting claims.
In a minuscule gesture to the real world, Senator Snowe also said the private sector has not delivered, but then went on to state, according to AP, that she believes it is important to “preserve what is good about the health care system.”
And just what is it that is good about the private sector? Forty-five million uninsured? Thirty million underinsured? Even large employers struggling to pay private insurers for company-provided coverage? How is any of this good?
The 80/20 rule applies to health care as it does with so many other things: 20 percent of the people overall use 80 percent of health care. This is one of the reasons Medicare is in financial trouble. Elders as an age group have more health care needs than younger age groups, so a program that covers only elders is bound to come up short.
On the other hand, if everyone were insured under one big tent, the risk is spread out evenly and health care becomes more affordable.
Which is why the smartest thing to do to repair health care in the U.S. is a single-payer system that would fold Medicare into it (or expand Medicare to everyone). Failing that, a public option will go a long way toward improving the system and could, in time, lead to a true single-payer system.
Recently, the battle for health care reform has taken to the television airwaves mostly with commercials using crude scare tactics to convince viewers that with a public health plan, government bureaucrats will make health care decisions. Here's one of them [31 seconds]:
This is almost too easy to refute: Medicare is a government-run health care program. Its administrative costs are about two percent compared to 15-20 percent with private insurers which is passed on to customers in high premiums. Like any large system, Medicare has its flaws, but for the most part it works quite well for elders and there is no reason it or a similar system won't work for everyone.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Emilie Babcox: My First Rock Concert.