Guest Op-ed: Why We All Need Improved Medicare for All Now

By Maria Termini

Plain and simple we need Improved Medicare for All now to make sure everyone has the healthcare they need. Currently many people cannot get the healthcare they need. They can’t afford healthcare and they suffer and die and this is wrong. Healthcare is a  matter of life and death, a human need, a human right.  Every day people are denied that right because they can’t afford it, even with insurance. Our profit-based healthcare system is the most expensive and complicated in the world. In order to keep their profits high for their stockholders, insurance companies are 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 has health insurance. Each time she takes her son to a doctor, she has 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.

We have about 1,600 different insurance companies in the U.S. 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 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. 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. Insulin is now so expensive some diabetics can’t afford it.  Some ration this most necessary drug, taking a dose every other day.  Some die because the drug companies insist on making a huge profit. 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 U.S. and it was $1,300.

Our healthcare 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 for the insurance companies.  The reality is that the Affordable Care Act is not going to make healthcare 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 healthcare system we have as the way things are. We must do something now about changing our healthcare system for the better. We need to get corporate profits out of the healthcare equation.

The solution to our healthcare crisis is Improved Medicare for All, a system of non-profit single payer healthcare, publicly funded, privately administered. Improved Medicare for All will provide affordable healthcare 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. Improved Medicare for All is a simple system. It will reduce administrative waste and can bargain for the best prices for drugs and medical services. Hospitals and physicians will no longer need huge billing departments to process complicated insurance forms. There would be no need for private health insurance. Improved Medicare for All would be funded by a small tax and premiums, deductibles, copayments would be eliminated. We would pay a lot less for Improved 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 healthcare costs than we do in the U.S. No one loses their home because they can’t pay medical bills. Diabetics get the insulin they need.    

We can get Improved Medicare for All by passing legislation. There are bills in the Massachusetts Statehouse (House 1194, Senate 683) and also the U.S. Congress (HR 1384, Senate 1129) for Improved Medicare for All. I urge you to study these bills and insist your legislators pass them.  Having the healthcare we need and having it be affordable is a critical issue that touches all of us.  It’s not a partisan issue. It’s just simple justice. Let’s work together for Improved Medicare for All and make healthcare a valued human right. We need to make our voices heard.  It will not be easy, but together we can do it.

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

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