Cutting Medicare funding won’t solve America’s health care crisis

Like many Americans, I’ve been trying to sift through all the rhetoric surrounding the health care reform debate.  It’s hard to make sense of something that’s this complex with so many competing interests and such well-funded corporate opposition.

The Obama administration is trying to mobilize the public’s support; yet, we haven’t been given enough information to make an informed decision. I’m beginning to suspect that keeping the public confused and in the dark is deliberate.

On Bill Moyers Journel last week, Trudy Lieberman,who covers health care reform for the Columbia Journalism Review and directs the health and medicine reporting program at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, confirmed my suspicions. She said,

“… he’s [Obama] been vague right from the very beginning on this point. We have not known exactly what the Obama health plan has been. Even though the headline writers, and the press has been talking about his health care overhaul for months…He has been out to lunch on this. And I think that’s a deliberate strategy on the part of the White House.”

But the president does take every opportunity to blame Medicare for most of the “problems” and waste without saying anything about the for-profit insurance industry’s influence on our current, low-rated and costly health care delivery system.

My disabled, adult daughter is completely dependent upon her small Social Security Disability income and Medicare. Hearing the president push for cuts without saying how Medicare coverage will be maintained and improved is very alarming.

What will my daughter and the millions of disabled and elderly people do if funding is cut?  For that matter, how will simply cutting Medicare funding “fix” anything?

President Obama is also supporting a proposed mandate to require all Americans to purchase insurance from private companies.

Moyers other guest, Marcia Angell, addressed this disturbing proposition. Angell is a physician and  Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard University Medical School. She was also the first woman Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. She said,

“We are the only advanced country in the world that has chosen to leave health care to the tender mercies of a panoply of for-profit businesses, whose purpose is to maximize income and not to provide health. And that’s exactly what they do.”

Regarding the mandate for all Americans to buy insurance, Angell continued, “We’re going to deliver the private insurance companies a captive market… And they love that.”

If people don’t have jobs how will they pay premiums, deductibles and co-payments? With government subsidies? Who’ll pay for the subsidies? The tax payers? Who’ll keep raking in profits on a broken system? The health insurance and medical-related industries.

As discouraging as the current situation is, Moyers’ guests did have some positive ideas to share. They agreed with many other experts, and the majority of Americans and physicians who want to implement a single payer system. Although we may not get it enacted this time around, there’s hope that we’ll keep moving in that direction.

Angell said, “I think we have to start all over on this. I really do. I think we have to go for a single payer system. You could institute that gradually. You could do it state by state. You could do it decade by decade. You could improve Medicare. That is, make it nonprofit. But extend it down to age 55 and age 45 and age 35.

She continued, “It would give the private insurance industry a chance to go into hurricanes, earthquakes or something. To get out of the health business. It could be done gradually. I think that has to be done. And it’s the only thing that can be done.” (Watch or read the entire interview here.)

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