Medicare: A shell game.

Medicare: A shell game.

Amy Goldstein and Helen Dewar, Washington Post writers entitled their article, Republican Medicare Plan Faces Challenges. It might have been more appropriately entitled, The Great Congressional Shell Game. When the GOP and the Whitehouse announced they were selling the plan before the 1100+ page document is even completed and before more than just a handful of Congresspersons even know what it contains, I knew it was time for alarm.

Some of the writing is on the wall. With all the good deregulation that brought us Enron, the ExxonMobil suits, the 401K money market illegal thefts of investors funds, and higher utility costs, the new Medicare Bill will turn a corner of good will and regulate where patients can get their care, underpay millions of citizens through recipient paid membership cards, annual deductibles which increase over time, increase pay for doctors and hospitals and do nothing to lower the costs of prescription drugs. There has to be some good things about the Bill, right?

Maybe! One of the proposals appears to be good on its face, but, in fact, may turn out to be little more than a ruse to help sell the Bill. One of the proposals is to permit recipients to purchase medications from Canada at lower costs. Sounds good. But, while the Bill may allow for it, it could begin only with the permission of federal health officials who have openly opposed the idea. This may be a case of what the one hand giveth, the other taketh away.

Sen. Tom Daschle (D) states, “It keeps drug prices high, causes 2 to 3 million retirees to lose drug coverage and coerces seniors into HMOs.” Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R) (Maine), said, “I remain deeply concerned about the specific impact this 'agreement in principle' will have in the real world for millions of Americans who count on Medicare for their health coverage, in particular the untested premium support plan,”. Snowe refers to the Bill's proposal to invite private plans to compete directly with Medicare in the future which could lead to a complete privatization of Medicare. The AARP's leaders have indicated favor with some of the proposals but refuse to endorse it until they have a written copy of the Bill for review.

A prescription drug benefit was largely pushed for by Democrats who would now be politically vulnerable to opposing the bill no matter how much of it they disagree with. Some Republicans can comfortably view this Bill as a first installment on the complete privatization of medical care in America leaving quality care for those who can afford it (have earned it) and charitable assistance for the rest of Americans who can't afford health insurance (didn't earn it). In the final analysis, senior citizens are going to get an overhauled Medicare program fashioned in an election year which may do more harm than good and promise a lot now, but, give very little for the participant's dollar later on.

While socialized medicine simply would not fit the American societal model, a single payer plan through the federal government is where America has to end up. It would be so much less expensive to establish today, than it will be a decade or two from now. But, visionaries seem to be a bit scarce in these days of fear and deficits on both sides of the aisle.  [Third Party WatchBlog]

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