Health and financial security Medicare What's Buzzing

For Americans, Medicare for all means continuity of care and far less disruption than the status quo

There’s a lot of chatter about the “disruption” Medicare for all will cause. In fact, for Americans, Medicare for all means continuity of care and far less disruption than the status quo. The transition to Medicare for all should be smooth sailing, a seamless and simple move out of commercial health insurance. The disruption will be in the commercial health insurance market.

Every year, millions of people are losing access to the doctors they know and trust either because their jobs end, they switch jobs, their employers switch their health insurance or their health insurance changes its in-network providers. So, unlike the health care system today, in which people cannot count on continuity of care from the doctors they know and trust or cannot count on being able to afford out-of-pocket costs to get the care they need, Medicare for all delivers on both counts. Yes, people must switch their insurance, but is that what anyone really cares about?

Dylan Scott reports for Vox on surveys suggesting that the 160 million Americans with employer coverage generally like it. But, what does that tell you? The important question is why people like their insurance rather than whether they like it.  My bet is that most people like their employer coverage because of the access to care it offers and could not care less about the insurance company offering their coverage or the brand of insurance they have.

Whereas people swear by their Hondas and Audis, have you ever met anyone who speaks highly of Aetna or United Health Care. People tend to like it when their costs are relatively low and they are able to see doctors they want to see, an entirely different proposition.

Scott also writes about the health insurance choices people with employer health insurance value and would not want to lose. Really? I cannot name a soul who enjoyed making a choice of a health plan or felt that he or she could even understand the different choices. How could anyone feel good about choosing a plan without knowing whether it will deliver them the care they need at a price they can afford?

That’s the beauty of Medicare for all and why 70 percent of Americans now support it. Americans want to know their health insurance will get them the care they need, from the doctors they trust, at a price they can afford. The latest study shows that improved Medicare for all–covering dental, vision and hearing without copays and deductibles saves middle-income families between 2.6 percent and 14 percent of their annual income, and it saves the nation more than $5 trillion over 10 years.

So, why isn’t Medicare for all a slam dunk? People would get to see the doctors they want to see at less cost than today. There’s one major reason–the powerful health insurance industry and its allies. They will lobby hard and advertise to ensure misinformation flows endlessly. Much as Harry and Louise TV ads fooled people into believing that their commercial health insurance was simpler and better than a government plan, you can be sure that the insurance industry will try to do same with Medicare for all. The insurers have everything to lose.

In this next round of health reform, the commercial insurers should have a rougher time. No one now thinks that their commercial health insurance is anything but complicated. Everyone now realizes that their commercial health insurers come between them and their doctors.

And, people increasingly see that employer coverage can neither guarantee everyone health care nor control costs, except by delaying and denying coverage. Moreover, it creates job lock. Americans do not want to depend on their jobs for decent health care coverage nor do they want to give up a big chunk of their wages—as they must do today—to pay for health insurance.

Health care is not a commodity. And, the companies selling health insurance are, at their core, different from the companies selling automobiles and other commodities. It is not possible for them to do their job–compete to provide good health care to all the people who need it–and survive financially. To maximize profits, the health insurance companies do not want to sell health insurance to the people who most need it. In stark contrast, to maximize profits, the automobile companies compete to sell as many automobiles as possible; they do not care who buys them.

Unlike Medicare for all, which is designed to pool and broadly distribute costs to ensure care for everyone, the commercial health care system is not one that can ever work for Americans who most need care. Medicare for all. One choice that meets everyone’s needs rather than many incomprehensible commercial insurance choices designed not to meet people’s high-cost care needs. Let’s do it!

If you support Medicare for all, please sign this petition to Congress.

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7 Comments

  • I prefer the term”single-payer” because currently our Medicare system includes for-profit insurance (Medigap, Part C and Part D). However, I agree that we need to improve coverage, provide universal coverage and get for-profit, commercial insurance completely out of our health care system.

  • I agree that we need health care reform but Medicare for all is a very misleading phrase. Original Medicare – Parts A & B – requires no fewer than 2 private insurances – Medigap & Part D for drugs – in order to work well. Medicare A & B does not cover dental, nor most vision, hearing, or drugs. There is no cap on out-of-pocket with Medicare, and I know people who owe thousands of dollars in medical bills because they did not have a Medigap policy to help pay the part of health care that Medicare pays 80% of but not all of. Some end up in bankruptcy.

    Furthermore, having Medicare doesn’t guarantee that you can see any doctor you choose. Healthcare providers opt out of Medicare all the time; and some that do, in fact, take Medicare will not take new Medicare patients. Check out the area around Washington DC for this issue.

    What most people pushing for Medicare for all really mean is exactly what Patricia Taylor above calls single payer. Going to this system will not be an easy transition and it will be very expensive. Regardless of what we are being told, there is no guarantee that employers who now provide insurance will pass their savings on to their employees in the form of higher wages.

    What is more likely to happen is that the employees will find themselves paying more in taxes just as those in countries with single payer government provided health care do now with little or no increase in wages while the business interests pocket their savings by dropping insurance benefits.

    Call single payer what it is – government run single payer. Calling it Medicare for all simply confuses the issue. I am a SHIP counselor and am floored by the number of people who are new to Medicare that think Medicare is free and that once you qualify for it, you never pay another medical bill nor any insurance premiums. I suspect that a lot of supporters for Medicare for all are equally unaware of how Medicare actually works.

  • So how is this paid for? Seniors have earned their Medicare by paying into the program their entire life. Would their taxes increase now to pay for someone else? That would be like a bank demanding a mortgage payment after you paid your mortgage off.

    • Actually, Medicare, Part A, is paid for by seniors during their working life. Seniors (and those eligible for SSD) pay for Medicare, Part B, as a deduction from their monthly Social Security checks. Seniors (or former employers) usually pay an extra amount for Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage). Seniors (or former employers) pay monthly for Medicare Part D.
      During the transition to a single-payer system, seniors could be given credits or tax deductions for their prior contributions to Medicare. Like in all other civilized countries, single-payer health care would most likely be financed by taxes instead of payments to private, for-profit insurance companies.

      • Pretty much all western countries with national health care fund it with a payroll tax. In France the payroll tax exceeds 35%. In the US it is 15%. This will be a very hard sell once they get down to funding.

        • My guess Bill, is that the increase in taxes will still be far less than people pay today for private insurance, drug insurance co-pays and additional medical bills.

          • If it’s funded by an increased payroll tax that is true. To date I have not seen anything about a payroll tax increase for funding. If it is any other tax it is not fair to seniors who already paid for their Medicare.

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