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Sun Oct 28, 2012, 06:54 PM

Once Medicare is Gone, We Will Never Get It Back [View all]

Romney/Ryan plan to eliminate Medicare. They promise to give old folks and the disabled “vouchers” that they can use to buy private insurance---the kind that individual Americans have to buy if their employer does not offer coverage. The kind of insurance that costs more and pays out less the older and sicker you are. The kind of insurance that has lifetime caps and huge copayments and deductibles and limited choices.

How will senior America do under Voucher-care? Since I am a family physician at a public health clinic that cares for lots of chronically ill middle aged folks who have lost their jobs---and insurance---I know exactly the way things will turn out for older Americans. I can tell you their stories in advance.

There is Hazel, 72, who has congestive heart failure. Her grown kids are struggling to get by, and so they live with her, and her daughter-in-law takes care of her. Heart failure is a very expensive condition to treat. Hazel is on and out of the hospital, takes twenty pills a day----and she has just met her lifetime cap. She is out of insurance. She has a choice now. Give up her home---which is paid for----in order to buy herself six more months of life. Or go on hospice and die, so that her family has a house after she is gone. Her mind is still sharp. She knows what it feels like to smother, the blind terror that grips her when she tries to breathe through fluid filled lungs. The hospice nurses promise that she will not suffer. They will give her plenty of morphine—which will hasten her death. As she is sitting at home one night, debating what she will do, she goes online and reads the comments written in the New York Times about another American who died because he lost his health insurance. One comment in particular catches her eye. The author says that if people had to pay out of their own pockets for end of life care, they would realize that it is better to just die. She wonders how old the author of that comment is and if he ever watched a parent die from a treatable condition and how he would feel if his lungs suddenly filled up with fluid and the only way he could breathe again was to go to a hospital he could not afford. She remembers how different it was for her mother, who had complications of diabetes. Medicare had no lifetime limits. Up until the day she died at 80 from a stroke, Hazel’s mother remained clear headed and bright. She volunteered at her Church. She told stories to her grandkids. Hazel always imagined that her old age would be the same. She never thought that when she gave up her Medicare, she was giving up her right to have an old age. If she could go back and undo the 2012 election, she would. But she can’t. There is no time machine. You have to get it right the first time. And she and lot of other Americans got it so terribly wrong.

Bill, 65 is newly retired---and, for the first time in his life, he is uninsured. He got his Voucher in the mail, but he was unable to find any insurer who would enroll him, because he has prostate cancer, and under Romney/Ryan insurers can reject those with pre-existing conditions. The company for which he worked declared “bankruptcy” and was able to get out from under its pension and health insurance obligations for retirees while still flush with cash. Bill never expected to have to fall back on his Medicare, but he counted upon it being there, just in case. He didn’t realize that Voucher-care covers only healthy seniors. He has some money saved and a big life insurance policy. That, combined with his Social Security makes Bill too “wealthy” for public healthcare. If he pays his own medical bills, he will run through his savings in about three years----and, with treatment, the cancer will take five or more years to kill him. Or, he can refuse treatment and die in just under a year and leave something for his wife and kids. Bill thinks a lot about that 2012 election, too. Back then, he considered himself one of the fortunate ones. He would never be dependent upon the government. He had lived an exemplary life, working hard, saving his money, planning for the future---but sometimes the future we get is not the one we expect. He realizes now that his vote in 2012 was a crap shoot---and he lost everything in one roll.

Wanda, 72 fell and broke her hip. Her Voucher-care covers her hospital costs, but it does not cover rehabilitation or home health care, things that Medicare used to cover. Her private insurance is designed for healthy young working people, not frail seniors. She is shipped home before she is able to take care of herself. She has no children and no nearby relatives. She is unable to cook food for herself or clean up after herself. She lives off cold, canned soup, growing progressively weaker. Since she can no longer drive, she misses doctors’ appointments. Her health deteriorates, but her mind is still sharp. She knows she cannot go on like this. She decides to do something she vowed never to do---go into a nursing home. But under Romney/Ryan, Medicaid has been cut back, and there is a long wait for nursing home beds in her state. So, she is forced to hire domestic help---a stranger who offers her services for a modest sum that even an old woman on a fixed income can afford. Wanda does not realize that her new companion preys off elderly people who are too weak to care for themselves at home but who have nowhere else to go. Her bank account is cleared out. Her possessions are stolen and sold. When she has nothing left worth stealing, she is abandoned----and there still is no nursing home bed for her. And the hospital where she ends up malnourished and dehydrated is being pressured by her Voucher-care to get her out of there or else they will stop paying her bills. As the woman from hospital collections asks her for the tenth time how she plans to pay for her portion of the hospital bill, Wanda looks back on the 2012 election. She clearly remembers being told by Romney not to worry---she would be taken care of. She wonders what the lady from the hospital collections department would say if she told her “Go ask Romney for the money. He’ll pay my bill.”

Every now and then, we find ourselves at a crossroads, faced with a decision that will change the world and our lives irrevocably. We are at such a crossroads now. If we vote for Romney/Ryan, we vote to end Medicare. We vote for a world in which only healthy, wealthy or working seniors will have value, and everyone else will be “expendable”. Does that sound like the kind of America you want to grow old in? Does that sound like the kind of America you want your parents and kids to grow old in? You have to decide now. Because once Medicare is gone, we will never get it back.

The private insurance industry hates Medicare. Insurance CEOs, with their corporate jets and seven figure salaries know how easy it would be to expand Medicare to cover all Americans. And so, they are willing to sacrifice our most vulnerable citizens in order to ensure their own profits. That is why you can trust Romney/Ryan to keep their promise to end Medicare. Not because they hate seniors. No, they will end Medicare, because their Super Pac donors have bribed them to do it.

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Reply Once Medicare is Gone, We Will Never Get It Back [View all]
McCamy Taylor Oct 2012 OP
BlueDemKev Oct 2012 #1
BlueJazz Oct 2012 #2
MichiganVote Oct 2012 #3
JohnnyRingo Oct 2012 #4
mahina Oct 2012 #5
GallopingGhost Oct 2012 #6
Jim Lane Oct 2012 #7