Posts Tagged With: Medicare

THE HEALTHCARE SCARE

So Obama promised on numerous occasions that: “If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it. Period.” He often repeated this while campaigning for President and then after he was elected. Bad mistake, as it turned out, since perhaps millions of people will lose their healthcare plan due to implementation of Obamacare. Couple that with the disastrous incompetence of introducing Obamacare on-line, and you have Republicans, like sharks smelling blood in the water, circling around their prey, ready to pounce. I suppose if Obama had said that most people would be able to maintain their healthcare plans, this entire kerfuffle might have been avoided. In any event, before we let panic and hysteria reign supreme, I felt it would actually be helpful if we looked at the facts and the reality surrounding the whole healthcare stew that exist in America today. You know what facts are; those pesky and annoying items that always seem to interfere with ideology.

The first fact to acknowledge is that we are the only civilized country on Planet Earth, (and perhaps in the universe) that doesn’t provide its citizens with universal healthcare. Republicans, and other assorted right-wingers point to healthcare systems in Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Japan, India, and everywhere else, and declaim these systems as “socialized medicine.” Oh, the horror. We must never allow the evils of socialized medicine to take root in the U.S., they staunchly proclaim. Except that it already has for major segments of our society. Like the military, for example. Republicans hold the military in such high esteem, that it has not been a problem bestow upon them the “evils” of socialized medicine. Here’s how it works. The military healthcare system is called TRICARE, and it’s available to all active AND retired military, their spouses and their young children. All are eligible to obtain free medical treatment at VA hospitals or from private doctors. Currently, this comes to just under 10 million people who don’t have to worry about obtaining healthcare. Plus, if one has ever served in the military, they’re allowed to obtain medical care at VA hospitals for a small co-pay. Why is socialized medicine a given for the military, but such a big deal about making it available to the civilian population?

Next comes Medicare for all those pain-in-the-ass seniors, who, as everyone knows, are just leeches on society. While not as good as TRICARE, it’s still not bad. It pays an estimated 80 percent of usual doctor bills, and almost 100 percent of hospital charges. It doesn’t cover stuff like eye glasses or hearing aids which are an increasing necessity in many senior’s lives. Normally, when one has Medicare, one has to also acquire a supplemental healthcare plan to cover the stuff Medicare won’t pay for. My supplemental costs about 3 times more than my Medicare premiums; but, between the two, I don’t have to worry about any billings from doctors or hospitals. So we’ll say that Medicare is semi-socialized medicine. Except if a senior decides to belong to an HMO, where everything is paid for and no supplemental is required. Then it’s fully socialized. There are, however, certain disadvantages to belonging to an HMO, which you can learn about on Google. In any event, there are currently 49 million people receiving Medicare benefits. The list of those with Government healthcare support keeps growing.

The next category of Government provided healthcare is Medicaid, a health plan for the poor. Medicaid is generally not considered a worthy plan because the Government is extremely parsimonious in its funding. Medicaid is a joint federal and state funded venture and both have been reluctant in providing the resources needed to keep the system afloat. Many doctors will not accept Medicaid patients because of stingy reimbursements. Still, if you’re poor, and can’t afford health insurance, it’s better than nothing. Currently, 70 million people rely on Medicaid for their health benefits. There’s also CHIP, the Children Health Insurance Program; essentially, Medicaid for youngsters, which enrolls another 7.6 million people. So we’re now up to about 136 million Americans receiving health insurance benefits from the Government. (Better not alert the Tea Party nut cases, or they’ll develop a case of the heaves.)

An estimated113 million Americans receive their health insurance from private employers or as employees of governments at the federal, state and local levels. These are generally safe from the mandates of Obamacare. So where’s the problem with all these cancellation notices and rate hikes. It comes because 5 percent of the population, or about 15 million people have to buy health insurance directly, because, for one reason or another, they are not part of a group plan. Which is always an unfortunate position to be in. Most of these cancellation notices are occurring because many of these self-insured health plans do not meet minimum medical requirements specified by the Government. Or, in other words, these plans are a piece of crap; and the only thing saving the butts of those purchasing such plans is that they remain healthy enough to not require serious medical attention in the first place. Eventually, over time, if Obamacare is allowed to develop and evolve, those buying self-insurance will be able to obtain decent plans at reasonable cost.

But, if Republicans want to howl that Obama lied, they’re free to do so. Imagine, a politician in Washington lied. I don’t think my heart can take it. Where’s my defibrillator? Although I seem to recall those famous words uttered by George Bush, the Elder: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” That notorious line was proclaimed about a year before he signed legislation raising our taxes. Or how about the right-wingers favorite President, Ronald Reagan, lying to us for over 2 years about the Iran-Contra scandal. (Those not familiar with Iran-Contra can also check it out on Google.) Or how about the infamous: “I did not have sex, not even once, with that woman, Miss Lewenski.” Bill Clinton is now revered as a saint in Democratic circles, despite the utterance. It was he, more than anyone, that saved Obama’s butt, in the 2012 election. Or how about George Bush, the Younger, telling us we had to go to war with Iraq because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. It was only later that we found no WMDs existed in Iraq. Or better yet, take the man considered our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln. In trying to secure enough votes to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, lying was the least of his sins. Lincoln used bribery, blackmail, threats of political or bodily harm, coercion, and bunches of other bad stuff, but he got the job done and was hailed as a hero. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from that.

 

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ADORATION BY THE MASSES

Watching parts of the Republican convention last week, I was particularly fascinated when the cameras swept to the the faces of the thousands of delegates in attendance, as various speechmakers gave their orations. For many, those faces were of pure, rapt adoration, as the promises being made would surely transform their lives into eternal bliss. Just elect the Romney/Ryan ticket, and thereafter, the sun will shine, the birds will chirp, and every morning we can tiptoe thru the tulips with carefree abandon. All the orator had to do was say: United States of America, we’re number one, and the crowd would erupt into screaming hysterics. Sort of like at a football game. It reminded me of films made by Nazi propagandists during the 1930s of Hitler’s motorcades through the hearts of Berlin or Nuremberg. Thousands would line the streets as young frauleins, with faces beaming in sheer adoration, would toss flowers at Der Fuher’s motorcade. Of course all that adoration turned to dust in the 1940s, as the war progressed and Allied forces were bombing German cities into piles of rubble. ┬áIf there’s one thing I’ve learned after all these years, it’s this. If you’re unhappy with your life, or things aren’t going well, there is only one person that can make the changes needed to rectify the situation, and you all know who that person is. Yes, you can get help from outside sources, but it sure as hell won’t be from some lowlife politician.

That’s not to insinuate that there aren’t consequences regarding who gets elected to run our government. For example, in the year 2000, Al Gore was elected President, but was not allowed to take office. Instead the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to George Bush through a highly questionable ruling. Bush was determined to get rid of Saddam Hussein, then the unquestionably evil despot ruling Iraq. Bush initiated the war in Iraq (a war Al Gore would never have started) which did depose Saddam who was later executed. But the cost of this war was almost a trillion dollars, plus the loss of over 6000 American military and civilian lives, plus another 30,000 seriously wounded Americans whose lives are effectively over because of injuries such as blindness, brain damage, or being paralyzed from the neck down, etc. To say nothing of the over 100,000 Iraqi lives that were lost. But without the war Saddam Hussein would likely still be in power, so one has to weigh the costs and make his or her own determination as to whether it was all worth it.

In any event, watching the convention last week, one could see the expressions of the true believers that I wrote about last time, on the faces of many of the delegates, and I’m sure we’ll see the same expressions of pure adoration when the Democratic convention starts tomorrow. So I thought it might be worthwhile to look at some actual facts surrounding this upcoming election. You know, those pesky little things that politicians like to mumble over when making soaring promises that never seem to materialize. Take Medicare, for example, a subject I’m quite familiar with since I’ve been on it for quite awhile. Medicare is a reasonably good plan but nothing great. It doesn’t cover stuff such as eye exams, eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentistry and a bunch of other stuff that seniors increasingly depend on with advancing age. Plus there’s a significant co-pay with every doctor’s visit. Every senior knows that if one depends on Medicare, one must also acquire a medigap policy with additional premiums to pay, in order to cover what Medicare does not. While Medicare premiums are not unreasonable, once the cost of a medigap policy is factored in, costs start to add up. But costs to the government are going up even faster, so Paul Ryan has a plan to address this issue, that is so convoluted that I won’t bore you with the details. The bottom line, however, is that new seniors entering Medicare would have to pay a lot higher share of the doctor’s bills. That’s it, plain and simple. The Democrat’s plan is to pretend that Medicare is not going broke, and keep it as it is.

Both positions are ridiculous, because neither party will face the true issues. Of course Medicare costs will skyrocket as people live longer, baby boomers for example, and as new and expensive medications and therapies come onto the market. But the answer is not to make vulnerable seniors, especially those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, pay thousands of dollars more than they can ill afford, as the Republican plan would stipulate. The solution is simply to raise the age of eligibility to say 70, instead of 65 as it is today. Raising the eligibility age would be entirely justified, because life spans have significantly increased over the years since Medicare became law in the 1960s. The same is true with Social Security which is also going broke if nothing is done. Just raise the retirement age, commensurate with increased life spans and the problem is solved. Yet both parties will spend tens of millions of dollars on obnoxious and obscene TV commercials, accusing the other side of destroying Medicare and Social Security. Such is the nature of politics these days.

The important thing to remember is that when people vote for President, they’re also voting to bring in the entire Democratic or Republican establishment to run the country. That can be a frightening thought. For example, the Republican platform has a section advocating the total elimination of all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest or where the life of the mother is threatened. When Romney is elected President the people who wrote that policy will be brought in to oversee social issues. (Romney has said he would advocate allowing abortions in those limited cases. Who said he wasn’t all heart.) It’s also interesting to note the men who drive up in black limos and go into these conventions through the side entrance, as quietly as possible. These are the multi-millionaires and billionaires that fund the Presidential campaigns, and they expect big-time payback when their guy is elected. Currently, there are about 14 billionaires in the Romney camp, all old and religiously fanatical white men. Of course Democrats have their billionaire backers too, so it might be worthwhile to research out which set of rich white guys who will really run the country, you want controlling your lives. In any event, as I’ve said previously, Mitt Romney is the best candidate the billionaires could buy thus far.

 

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