Archive for July 31, 2009

Medicare, We Hardly Know Ya

44 years ago Medicare was enacted into law.  All of today’s dire warnings about a public health option – socialism and government barring the doctor’s door – were made in opposition to Medicare.  Despite such opposition from “conservative,”  leaders, including Senator Bob Dole, Medicare passed. 

Before Medicare, 50% of  everyone 65 or older had NO health insurance. Now, as a result of Medicare, almost all older people are insured.  Medicare, which is national, government-run health insurance, succeeded in insuring older people where private insurance failed.  And, until the Bush Administration privatized Medicare with the extraordinarily subsidized private “Medicare Advantage” and Part D plans, Medicare was remarkably cost-effective too.  It’s private Medicare, not the traditional, public program, that’s bleeding taxpayers of billions of dollars. 

Medicare has been a success, fiscally and morally.  It took on the job of insuring health coverage and care to people that private insurance had abandoned.  Since 2003, on the other hand, private Medicare plans have cost us all tens of billions of dollars that went to support the private insurance industry, not to providing health care.  In addition, private Medicare plans have too often engaged in marketing abuses and restrictive coverage practices. 

As Paul Krugman recognizes in today’s New York Times, people with Medicare love it.  They do not want government to fool around with the traditional program.  Ironically,  these are sometimes the same people who worry that a public health care option will cause long waits for health care and government invasions into their private medical decisions. They, and their family members, (which accounts for pretty much all of us), forget that the traditional Medicare program is a  public health insurance option. 

Hello, America, meet Medicare:  Our 44 year-old public health insurance option that provides care to all its enrollees, anywhere in the country, and that has provided health and economic security for millions of older people, people with disabilities, and their families.

Happy anniversary, Medicare.  Thank you for showing us what a true public insurance program can offer.

July 31, 2009 at 6:38 pm 4 comments


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