Medicare's 50th birthday is something to celebrate

Body: 

The Citizens Federation invites everyone to celebrate this July 30.

It is the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid, created to provide affordable health care for America's elderly, disabled and low-income people. These programs are incredibly important to our country; one-third of all Americans use them. Medicaid, besides providing health coverage for low-income families, also pays for most of the long-term nursing home care in our country.

Medicare, which everyone can look forward to receiving when they turn 65, covers 55 million people. It provides coverage for the elderly at half or less of the cost that would be required by private insurance policies. It is immensely popular and with good reason.

That's why the Citizens Federation believes Medicare should be expanded to include all Americans, of all ages. If we had "Medicare for all," there would enormous cost savings from the removal of insurance paperwork, profits, ads and high administration costs, for hospitals and doctors as well. Drug and medical equipment prices could be held down and coverage could actually become truly affordable for everyone, without the need for extra government subsidies.

Medicare can also be made better, and it should. Dental, hearing, eye and long-term care coverage should be added.

There is a need to get rid of the current waste, of at least $30 billion a year, caused by the partial privatization of Medicare. This waste is in the form of the insurance company ads, profits, administrative expense and inferior purchasing power of the Medicare Advantage private policies. The federal Government Accountability Office has determined there is another $2 billion a year or more of fraud committed by the Medicare Advantage insurers. If we remove the wasteful role of the insurance companies, we will prevent the need for reductions in Medicare in the future, such as a voucher proposal.

The Citizens Federation believes that Medicare is great for everyone and therefore we should work to protect, improve and expand it.

Buddy Robinson is staff director of the Minnesota Citizens Federation – Northeast.