ELDER MUSIC: Classical Part 2
Age and Leaky Old Pipes

Health Care Reform Gets Personal

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.

category_bug_politics.gif 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.


Thank you, Ronni, for a great post on my soapbox issue. I have ranted on this subject endlessly, but you just said it so much better.

I do know some elders who are against the reform and their objection seems to be about the cost. No matter how you point out that it will cost everyone less in the long run (including the government) the opposition have successfully made this the big bogey man.

There seem to be a lot of people who love their Medicare or VA benefits but at the same time say they don't want government making their health care decisions. As you say, "duh."

As for those on private insurance who say the same, I always ask who makes their health care decisions. I frequently hear "my insurance won't cover so I can't have...."

Everyone needs to keep contacting their Senators and Representatives to share their opinions. It's pretty much all we can do.



Good post, Ronni. It reminds me of a news segment recently (within the last two weeks) which was the final entry in a week long examination of the problems of our health care system. The basic premise was that we, consumers of health services, were 'overusing' the resources. We were demanding treatments, tests, drugs, whatever, that were not needed. The fault doesn't lie with drug companies hawking all kinds of 'new' drugs hoping to send viewers to their doctors to demand these 'new drugs.' The fault doesn't lie with doctors who are happy to over charge you for a needless visit and prescribe an unnecessary test or drug. I think you see my drift. For every person who 'overuses' this un-'health' care system we have at least ten who can't use it as much as they should or can't use it at all. I am sure that the news readers and writers thought they were presenting a 'balanced' story while they managed to give a very unbalanced impression of the situation.

I also support a public option and believe if they don't offer it, this will become a boondoggle and end up making the insurance companies even richer. Without the public option any bill will only be a requirement to get insurance at a price the insurance companies decide is right.

Whatever they do, universal coverage will demand that people buy it who right now may believe they cannot afford it but have savings or something else that someone else decides means they can.

One thing to remember is that a public option won't be free and no matter what they do with insurance, people need to pay attention to the details, the clauses as often they are where we get screwed.

I'd like to think our congress people care about us but they are being paid well by insurance companies to put their concerns first and we see that from the right and left.

Thank you, thank you, Ronni. You speak so well for us. I write to my representatives and other people's as well; I will write to Snow as well as other trogolodytes, supporting a univeral Medicare system. I'm on Medicare and I do care about those others, especially the children, ours or anyone else's. My eldest, a single man who used to be employed in the newspaper business, was laid off some time ago and is working where he has expensive insurance with a $5000 cap. He has diabetes; it doesn't pay on that because it's pre-existing. Another son with a three person, two-job family, has no insurance at all. They can't afford it. And so it goes up and down our streets.

You've got a big job up there in Maine. Your Senators, women who often can come across as more reasonable than a lot of Republicans, are being the front people for scaring us away from what we need to keep the insurance companies in check.

That's pretty ironic. What the so-called public option does is give the insurance giants some efficient competition. Unless Congress hamstrings the public option, its costs will be less, so it will give the insurance companies a run for their money. They are screaming for the government to protect them from competition! Why? Are they doing such a good job we prefer them?

Yeah, sure!

Well said!

My take on this issue is different. For some time it has seemed clear that differences between the young and the old have been either ignored when they are important (as in delivery of health care) or used to promote various right wing agendas.

Desparate for more ways to secure the status quo on this issue, the insurance companies and their allies have tapped into how much space we old people take us/overuse resources. Our only significant advocate is the AARP, that very large insurance company now trying to reclaim its former credibility of being dedicated to our best interests. A friend who has been as active in health care reform efforts as I was trying to convince me just yesterday that we can trust them once again.

AARP could run its own advertising as well as provide data to show why we are ALL at risk without significant reform in health care delivery. The July 13 issue of The Nation spoke to my own concern that organizations move toward multiple-issue advocacy-- http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090713/duggan. Gay rights and single-payer supporters joined together with other social justice orgs in Salt Lake City. Surprising and encouraging outcome.

Ronni, would you invite the Maine senators to write posts for TGB to learn how the range of seniors who read here feel? You could point out to them and to the Portland Press Herald (whose photo was used in that NY Times article) that we are a very, very diverse group agewise.

The aging Boomers do not want a public option? I don't think that is the case. Let's be positive in these very difficult times: Al Franken is now a Democratic Senator! I'm looking for him to keep my Senator Schumer focused on public option, not watered down, NOW.

I covered this subject and the single payer rally in Austin. Here's the link


Way to go, Ronni!

Private insurance--what's not to like? Constantly escalating premiums, rejected claims, obscure loopholes, "pre-existing conditions" ruling out nearly everyone over 40! The hits just keep on coming'.

My personal favorite contribution of the private insurance "industry," though, is "rescission"--the practice of denying coverage to people who paid premiums, believed themselves to be insured, and then (whoops!) got sick. Then the insurance company "discovers" that they "lied" on their application. Maybe they didn't mention that ear-piercing in 1967 as a medical event. Clearly, this is "intended fraud" so the person's entire coverage is cancelled--now that they really need it, of course.

My other favorite example of their social contribution: The very existence of loophole-ridden private insurance has enabled many doctors to turn away Medicare patients because the private patients are more lucrative. The doctor "solves" the problem, not by becoming more efficient or accessible, but by "firing" the Medicare patients.

Either way, private insurance has introduced massive distortions into the sacred marketplace that they claim to worship.

Somewhere, no doubt, are people who "love" their private insurance. At least I am always hearing this from the media, though I never seem to meet any. In any event, I suspect their love may not be returned, one way or another, when the chips are down.

Single-payer would be best, but public option is next. If neither one makes it, there is no "reform," just profiteering as usual.

This post is concise and so on target. You should submit it to the editors of newspapers. It is going to be a transitional plan no matter what we do as we work out the kinks...but we must get health care for everyone.

I had some issues with Medicare when my Mom was in her 80s. When she broke her hip, she was allowed just so long to recover, I think it was 3 months of rehab. We were told by the doctors that the recovery time was the same for her, an 81-yr-old with Parkinson's Disease and osteoporosis, as it was for a young, healthy person. As a result, she ended up in a nursing home.
My impression at the time was that, as long as Medicare didn't foot the bill, they had no interest in trying to restore her to a level of functioning that avoided the most expensive ticket, long-term nursing home care, covered by Medicaid once you're destitute.
As a result, I think long-term care, in a facility or at home, should be part of health care reform.

Great post, Ronni. I've been pushing for single payer for years with several posts and a permanent set of links. What we really need is to follow the money. OpenSecrets.org, the website of the Center for Responsive Politics, shows Aetna and New York Life among the top 5 contributors to Snowe, and health professionals and insurance among the top 5 industries. Don't you think that might have something to do with her position on all of this?


Of course! And not just with Senator Snowe - with all Congressional representatives and the president too.

According to this story in the Washington Post today, the health care industry is spending $1.4 million PER DAY lobbying Congress in their interests on health care reform. And most of those lobbyists are former congress people or government staffers.

The rest of us haven't got a chance!

Hear hear! You know I have been putting off writing emails about this to my reps. I've just got to do this. I think having a public option is necessary, but I think doing so will push an awful lot of employers to get rid of their private insurance because their employees will be able to get it elsewhere.

I too have had it with people saying the guv'ment shouldn't be in the healthcare bidness, because we don't want some bureaucrat making decisions that affect us. What has been going on for the last 20 years? Private bureaucrats have been doing this extensively for all of us.

I think our problems are financial--how to afford, and who will profit or not.

Fageaboutit! We the people of the U.S. ARE SCREWED!
The fix is in. How can you fight 1.4 million dollars A DAY?
Everybody in Washington who can has gone over to the big PHARMAINSURANCEMEDICO Cartel- for the money of course.
Either I stay here in India or maybe head to Costa Rica! Anywhere safe and sensible. cause it looks like the old US of A has gone completely "Looney Tunes"!

It seems to me that the ones who "don't give a damn about the rest of the country" are not elders but the Republicans and others who have their own good healthcare insurance thank you very much and are ready to fight tooth and toenail to avoid paying a penny of taxes toward helping the uninsured.

Excellent post! As usual, you are concise, logical, and right!

They have all that money from profits to lobby and make their infomercials for the PHARMAINSURANCEMEDICO Cartel (thanks mythster). We need a revolution!

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