Guest Op-Ed: Why We All Need Expanded and Improved Medicare for All

By Maria Termini

 Plain and simple we need Improved Medicare for All now to make sure everyone has the health care they need. Currently many people can’t afford health care and they suffer and die and this is wrong. Health care is a matter of life and death, a human need, and a human right.  Every day people are denied that right because they can’t afford it, even with insurance. Our profit-based health care industrial system is the most expensive and complicated in the world. In order to keep their profits high, insurance companies are continually raising their premiums and increasing deductibles, copayments and out of pocket expenses.

Many people can’t afford the co-payments. My friend Melinda is a single parent with a job that pays barely above minimum wage. She pays premiums for her health insurance. Each time she takes her son to a doctor, she must make a co-payment of $70 which is a financial hardship. Melinda herself hasn’t been to a doctor in many years because she can’t afford the co-payment even though she has some medical problems. So, she suffers and takes risks with her health. This is wrong.

We have about 1600 different insurance companies in the US and this results in high administrative costs, endless paper work and a very high overhead to pay for all their advertising and ways to deny care. This drives up the costs.  The insurance companies pay their executives salaries of millions of dollars. When the former CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Clive Killingsworth left his job a few years ago, he walked away with a golden parachute of 11.3 million dollars in compensation and he had only worked there six years.  Because these executives are overpaid, the premiums and costs keep increasing. And more and more people can’t afford to get the care they need. 

Insurance companies have many complicated regulations and the fine print is often unintelligible and with horrible consequences. In New York City, a woman received an emergency heart transplant at a hospital in her health plan’s network. However, no one bothered to tell her that the transplant surgeons didn’t take her particular insurance.  They billed her $70,000 and sent collection agencies and lawyers after her while she was still home recuperating. She may have recovered but chances are good she has lost her home.

The cost of prescription drugs is soaring as the drug companies persist in making  huge profits.  Insulin is now so expensive some diabetics can’t afford it.  Some ration this most necessary drug, taking a dose every other day.  Others have died. I was in Bolivia a few years ago and got bit by a dog and needed rabies shots. They were $35 each there. I got my final shot in the US and it was $1300. 

Our health care costs have actually increased despite the complex legislation known as the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obama care.)  This legislation was written by the insurance companies and with their own best interests in mind.  The reality is that the Affordable Care Act is not going to make health care affordable, only more expensive as premiums, deductibles and out of pocket expenses get higher and higher each year, escalating beyond the current rates of inflation. The costs go higher because of our profit driven system. 

We cannot let this system continue. Our health is very important. We cannot be complacent and accept the health care system we have as the way things are. We must do something now about changing our health care system for the better. We need to get corporate profits out of the health care equation.

The solution to our health care crisis is Medicare for All, a system of non-profit single payer health care, publicly funded and privately administered. Expanded and Improved Medicare for All will provide affordable health care for everyone, increased access to prevention and early intervention, providing dental and vision care.  Preventive care is critical. I know too many women who have died because of delayed cancer diagnoses. Dental care is critical. A mother could not afford to take her  nine-year old son to the dentist when he complained of a severe toothache. Her health insurance did not cover visits to a dentist. That toothache became a brain abscess and the boy died.

Medicare for All is a simple system, just like the current Medicare for those over 65, with a very low overhead. It will reduce administrative waste and bargain for the best prices for drugs and medical services. Hospitals and physicians will no longer need huge billing departments to process tons of complicated insurance forms. There will be no need for private health insurance. Improved Medicare for All would be funded by a small tax and all premiums, deductibles, copayments would be eliminated. We would pay a lot less for Medicare for All than the current bloated system.           

Canada has single-payer healthcare. In Canada no one dies because they are uninsured or can’t afford health care.  Canadians live longer and are healthier than us and spend about half per capita on health care costs than we do in the US. In Canada no one loses their home because they can’t pay medical bills. Diabetics easily get the insulin they need.       

We can only get Improved Medicare for All by passing legislation. There are bills in the Massachusetts Statehouse (House 1267 and Senate 766) and also the US Congress (HR 1976) for Expanded and Improved Medicare for All. I urge you to study these bills and insist your legislators support and pass them.   It will not be easy but we must work for justice in health care and stop the suffering and dying when people can’t get the care they need.  We can make health care at last a truly enjoyed human right by creating Medicare for All, a health care system that put patients before profits, is comprehensive, covers every one, and is affordable.

 Maria Termini is an artist and public speaker. She works with Mass Care and Healthcare Now. She welcomes your comments and can be contacted at: [email protected]

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