Medicare and Social Security have been successful

It is a shame that so many people have been hoodwinked into believing that Medicare is not one of the most successful federal programs ever. Medicare and Social Security have provided more peace of mind to our elders than can be imagined. They have eliminated the old County Poor Homes and have allowed the plus-65 crowd to have dignity in their final years.

So I was amazed when local columnist Lindon Dodd called Medicare “a not funny joke” and a “curse” for senior citizens.

And I know why he did this. He has confused Medicare (now more accurately referred to as Traditional Medicare) with Medicare Advantage, which is run by private insurance firms with federal tax dollars. He also throws into the mix Medi-gap policies, which are also operated by for-profit insurance companies. We in Traditional Medicare (managed by the federal government) tack onto the 80-percent coverage from Medicare with the 20-percent coverage by Medigap. Don’t even mention Medicaid, the successful medical coverage for children and those of lower economic means.

Sometimes it gets a bit confusing because the Medicare Advantage people —led by former football star Joe Namath on television — often talk about their private plans by just saying “Medicare” while dropping off the rest of their name:”Advantage.” So they deliberately try to make it look as if private Medicare Advantage is actually the superior public Medicare.

Why would I say that the public program is better than the private insurance company medical coverage? Several reasons. First, Medicare Advantage costs about 17% more — from the taxpayers — than traditional Medicare. The “advantage” plans also do some cherry picking, not signing up high-risk people while accepting more healthy people.

Also, the “advantage” policies, in order to supply profits, deny more applications for medical claims. They also slip in co-pays and up-front deductibles that are never mentioned when their low level of premiums is touted. You also don’t get to choose your own doctor in “advantage” plans, just those in the insurance company’s network.

The bottom line is that the public Traditional Medicare has an overhead under 3% while the private plans have overheads ranging from 18% to 31%. As more money is siphoned off to Medicare Advantage, less money is left in the Medicare Trust Fund for traditional Medicare.

I have been in Medicare for more than two decades and am happy with the program but not completely satisfied.

Plans to expand Medicare to include needed eye care, dental care and hearing aids are being throttled in the U.S. Senate by all the Republicans and two Democrats. Also going down the drain is the prospect of lowering the allowable age to 60 years.

What appears on the horizon though is the passage of part of the bill that would give the federal government the power to negotiate the price of drugs with Big Pharma. This alone would save us seniors a half trillion dollars.

I hate to throw another wrinkle into this messy medical coverage with another private grab for more of Medicare’s money. It is known as the DCEs--Direct Contracting Entities.

In the Trump administration the lobbyists installed 53 DCE pilot programs in 43 states — all within Traditional Medicare. They look similar to the “advantage” plans, but they inject into the mix a middleman that is intended to privatize what the world sees as one of the best public senior citizen programs. Patients would be placed into these DCEs by their doctors without their consent. (Among these middlemen are 26 Wall Street investment firms and six large insurance companies.)

So far, these DCEs have flown under the radar. They are a virus spreading into the medical field hidden from view. While every other industrialized nation has some type of public medical coverage for all citizens, the United States seems to be going the other direction.

We in the hinterland are still trying to sort out the alphabet soup among medical agencies and television ads. And the greed goes on in Washington D.C.

David Ross Stevens, Borden

Trending Video

Recommended for you