Medicare is 43 years old today. It isn't easy to find mention of that happy fact in the corporate media but there are some celebrations happening hither and yon. The AFL-CIO blog notes that the Alliance for Retired Americans has organized cake deliveries to members of Congress as well as press conferences and rallies in at least five states. It looks like PA State Senator James Ferlo joined forces with the Teamsters to host an in-district party at noon today. Healthcare-Now, a single-payer fan, has organized parties around the country. And there is a terrific article in the Jasper Newsboy, (from Jasper, Texas, home of Traudney Byerly) that warns seniors against losing what Medicare was set up to do:
McMillon explained that Medicare Advantage plans are managed care plans and they must manage costs by choosing the least expensive options to treat a patient.
"You cannot divorce these great-sounding plans from the fact that they have to make money," McMillon said. "So for example, instead of approving a bypass operation that 99 cardiologists out of 100 would recommend, they are going to try to treat it with medication and a 'wait and see' approach."
Calhoun agreed, and said she sees people who are disappointed or angry to find that they cannot see their usual physician because that doctor is not in the plan.
McMillon said when people have traditional Medicare and a supplement, they have guarantees. Physicians can't refuse to see Medicare patients or take Medicare payment or they face fines.
McMillon explained how we have arrived where we are today: "Prior to 1965 there was no health insurance available to people over 60 unless you had a retirement plan through your employer that you could keep until you died. Life expectancy was only 67 years for a man back then, too.
"There was no health insurance past 60 for a reason— it was unprofitable. Congress enacted Medicare in 1965 to give affordable access to health care to people over 65.
The article even exposes the sham argument that privatizing Medicare will make it more efficient:
McMillon and Womack said most people don't realize that they have a very narrow window to make these decisions when they reach retirement age. For example, they can choose traditional Medicare and pay $96 a month for part B, and that is worth about $800 a month in insurance premium benefits; the rest is paid with tax dollars.
For that same person who would cost Medicare about $800 a month, Medicare Advantage costs about taxpayers about $1100-$1200 a month, about 25 percent more.
"If it was truly private and free market, the government shouldn't need to subsidize it," McMillon said.
Opening the feeding trough invites abusive billing as well, he says.
"We would not see the electric wheelchairs that used to sell for $400 going for $8,000," McMillon said. " They are making money off a tax-funded program."
Which is, of course, the plan.
No mention of the Medicare milestone has yet made it to the official Medicare site. To be fair, site administrators need all the space they can get to advertise for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug programs, two of the biggest ways the enemies of Medicare are using to loot the program.
Of course, the parties are great but the real present for Medicare this year was the override of BushCo's veto of the less-than-perfect H.R. 6331 (the Medicare "doctor fix" bill). Take a minute to remember Sen. Kennedy dramatically arriving on the floor to vote against the filibuster that survived until he took time away from cancer treatments to smash it. Celebrate Medicare's 43rd by remembering a rare and resounding BushCo legislative defeat. And you may as well call Sen. Kennedy's office to thank him for making it possible.
UPDATE: Health Care For All PA was also very active yesterday. From their email:
Not only did Healthcare for All Pennsylvania volunteers deliver 43rd Medicare Birthday cupcakes and pro-Single Payer (HB 1660/SB 300) messages to all 253 State House and Senate Members today -- we made new friends, earned abiding respect, and garnered more than 300 radio station "hits" with our lobby day campaign.