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Sun Oct 21, 2012, 12:08 PM

“By God, You Can’t Treat Grandma This Way.” [View all]

"My inclination would be [...] that it ought to be retroactive as far back as you can get it [...] because none of them ever get enough. That they are entitled to it. That that's an obligation of ours. It's just like your mother writing you and saying she wants $20, and I'd always sent mine a $100 when she did. I never did it because I thought it was going to be good for the economy of Austin. I always did it because I thought she was entitled to it. And I think that's a much better reason and a much better cause and I think it can be defended on a hell of a lot better basis [...] We do know that it affects the economy [...] But that's not the basis to go to the Hill, or the justification. We've just got to say that by God you can't treat grandma this way. She's entitled to it and we promised it to her."

LBJ on Medicare

Change is coming. Not the good kind of change. Republicans in Congress are Hell bent upon dismantling Medicare---a program almost fifty years old---and replacing it with vouchers that seniors and the disabled can use to purchase private health insurance. Why? According to the plan’s architect, Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, we cannot afford to honor our contract with the nation’s elderly. Not if we are going to cut taxes for the rich.

Age 65 may seem far away, but sooner or later we all get old. Here’s what we can look forward to under Voucher-care:

Tammy, 70 has never been sick a day in her life, but now she has gallstones. She can hardly keep down a bite of food. She is losing weight and growing progressively weaker. Her doctor would love to do surgery. Once that gallbladder is out, she will be as good as new. But the hospital wants cash up front to cover Tammy’s $2000 annual deduction, plus her $1000 hospital co-payment plus the 20% that her private plan won’t pay. Tammy is living on a fixed income---Social Security. She does not have that kind of money. She calls her adult son. He does not have $5000 lying around either. So Tammy waits---until her diseased gallbladder ruptures. Now a simple cholecystectomy becomes major abdominal surgery and an extended ICU stay. Even when she is off the ventilator, Tammy is left weakened, with bad lungs and kidneys. If she was forty, maybe her body could repair itself, slowly. But she is seventy. She will never be her old self again.

Billy, 72 survived lymphoma. He is getting his life back together. His first grandchild will be born soon. When he gets chest pain, he rushes to the hospital. There he gets some bad news and some good news and then some more bad news. The bad news is that he has heart disease. The good news is the doctors can fix it. The bad news is his lymphoma treatment brought him near the lifetime spending limit on his private insurance. There is not enough left for the coronary artery bypass graft his doctors say that he needs. And with his “pre-exiting condition” he can’t get any other insurance. So, he is given prescriptions for ten different medicines, half of which he cannot afford, and sent home to die without ever seeing his grandson.

Belinda, 69 has not seen a doctor in years. Her Voucher-Care has a high deductible, and it does not cover routine screens like mammograms. Her Social Security check barely covers her food and rent. So, by the time she notices the lump in her breast, it has already metastasized. The oncologist is willing to waive her deductible and her copayments. So is the hospital. But that does not change the fact that Belinda is going to die from a disease that she could have beaten if it had been discovered two years earlier.

John, 66 had a stroke. A little stroke, one that left his right arm and leg weak but not completely paralyzed. With rehab, his doctors say he can live a normal life. But his private insurance does not cover in-patient rehabilitation. It does not cover visiting nurses, either. He has no children---his only son died fighting in Iraq. After five days in the hospital, his private insurance company pronounces him "well enough" to go home. He has no one to drive him, so he takes a cab. Once he reaches his house, he realizes that he can not climb the four front steps.

High deductibles, high copayments, lifetime spending caps, lack of preventive and rehab care, exclusion of pre-existing conditions---these are hard enough to deal with when you are young and employed. To the nation’s elderly, they are a death sentence. It is enough to make you wonder if the advocates of Vouchers-----Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and the House Republicans---care at all about senior citizens.

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Reply “By God, You Can’t Treat Grandma This Way.” [View all]
McCamy Taylor Oct 2012 OP
bemildred Oct 2012 #1
taught_me_patience Oct 2012 #2
Tigress DEM Oct 2012 #3
ellisonz Oct 2012 #4