Should we privatize Medicare?

Been there, done that… the answer is NO!

By Jack E. Lohman

Conservatives say that private companies are more efficient than government, but they ignore that Medicare already has a private arm put into place by George Bush in 2003. It’s called Medicare Advantage and 25% of seniors have opted for it. (Some “tricked” into it, but I’ll not go into that here.)

But that privatized Medicare system costs taxpayers 17% more than the traditional public system. So much for private being more efficient than public.

The reason it got congressional approval in the first place is that private insurance companies can give campaign contributions and Medicare cannot. And that’s a major slap at our corrupt political system, and the politicians that voted it into place.

These politicians should be ashamed and in jail, but the public should be irate. This same pay-to-play political corruption has trashed our economy. It bought all of the trade laws that outsourced our jobs to other countries. Get the bribes out of health care politics and you’d be surprised at the progress we could make.

Is Medicare perfect?

Far from it. But having experienced both private medicine and now Medicare for 8 years, I’ll take the latter any day. I see the same doctor I’ve seen for twenty years; he just sends the bill in a different direction.

Why is it being attacked?

Because it is good and the private insurance industry doesn’t like that a bit. Its administrative costs are 3.5% versus their 15-20%. Medicare doesn’t have the high costs of $15 million CEO salaries, bonuses, stock options, marketing costs, broker sales commissions, actuarial costs, golden parachutes, shareholder profits, nor even the political campaign contributions that get passed on to the patient.

And to understand why politicians are attacking it you’d have to look closely at the $125 million in campaign contributions they received in the last year. Go figure.

Isn’t this what Canada has?

Yes, and all we hear is that Canada has wait times. But we don’t hear that they spend only 10% of GDP (versus our 17.5%) and they could eliminate those waits by increasing their spending to 11-12% of GDP. Yet even with their wait times, 90% of Canadians prefer their system to ours. (They have NO wait times for urgent care, however.)

We always hear about the occasional Canadian coming to the U.S. for care, but we never hear of the Americans going to Mexico or India because they can better afford care there.

Medicare-for-all *IS* a jobs bill

If you’ve ever owned a company and been faced with 15% healthcare increases per year, even when medical costs are increasing at 5%, you already know of the urge to send your manufacturing to Asia. Getting businesses out of providing health care to employees will reduce outsourcing and increase their ability to keep jobs in the U.S.. One plan reduces employer costs from 15% of wages to just 4.5%.

Is there Medicare fraud?

Of course there is, but it is far less than in the private system because government fraud usually means jail time. But fraud detection should be extended and privatized, if you will, by improving the laws that protect whistle blowers. Let the employees provide and be rewarded for the oversight rather than hiring new FBI agents. Few doctors, hospitals or nursing homes will attempt fraud under those conditions.

What does Medicare NOT have?

Cherry-picking, lemon drops, rescissions and lasering… all techniques that the private industry uses to deny care to patients that have gotten overly sick (see descriptions HERE). These are what the private industry takes care not to call “pulling the plug on Granny,” but it is exactly that.

Remember the 17-year-old California girl who was denied a transplant and died as a result? That was CIGNA, not Medicare.

With Medicare if you get sick, you get care and the caregiver gets paid. Simple as that.

Is Medicare socialized medicine?

No, but what if it were? One of the best medical systems in the U.S. is “socialized,” which is doctors salaried by the government and working in government hospitals. That’s the V.A. Hospitals, Bethesda Naval Center and other armed forces centers. The best in the world.

But Medicare is 95% private… private doctors putting their patients in private hospitals, but billing the state’s private Medicare contractor (in Wisconsin that’s WPS in Madison).

What if Medicare doesn’t cover the procedure I want?

Then pay for it the old-fashioned way, with cash dollars. Medicare does not cover cosmetic surgeries, and we’d be pretty upset if it did. But you can buy any supplemental insurance that you want, and even totally bypass Medicare and buy your own policy. Go for it!

Does Medicare use gatekeepers?

Not as much as private insurers do, and certainly not as much as they should. But that is being tightened up. Gatekeepers are usually nurses trained to detect over-utilization caused by over-zealous patients or physicians. They should never overrule treatment but flag potential abuses.

Stories on privatized Medicare Advantage Plans:
States Look to Rein In Private Medicare Plans
Private Medicare Plans’ Cost Questioned
Medicare Audits Show Problems in Private Plans
Sensenbrenner favors 19% of seniors, trashes other 81%!
Medical Tourism: The Big Picture

The U.S. could extend Medicare to 100% of our citizens and save taxpayers $400 billion in the process. Or we could spend that $400 billion and extend the benefits to include dental care, mental parity and other services.

4 Responses to Should we privatize Medicare?

  1. Jim Wrich says:

    Regarding Canadians coming to the US for care: that is also built into the Canadian system — if the best care for a Canadian citizen with a specific medical issue is across the border, their system pays for it rather than duplicating a specific service that would not be used very often. They do not believe in having an MRI on every corner, pretending that it is “competition” while it increases costs. In those states that believe in such an efficient utilization of services as a matter of public policy, we call it a Certificate of Need system.

    Interestingly, Canada ranks 9th best in overall life expectancy (81.23 years) and the US is 49th (79.11 years).  In 2007 Canada’s health care cost per capita was $3895 while the US spent $7290 (87% more), and in 2010 we will spend well over $8000. The difference computes to more than a trillion dollars per year — a number equivalent to 40% of our entire Federal Budget.

    Jim Wrich
    Coalition for Wisconsin Health
    Madison

  2. And indeed, Jim, we too had a state Certificate of Need but it was lobbied out of existence by the hospitals. It is time that we re-instate that, given that SE Wisconsin now has such rapid increases in healthcare costs.

  3. […] That’s a serious problem, and only public funding of campaigns will replace the need to use taxpayer funds to buy off the Fat Cats. There are only two sources of campaign money — public and private — and we pay a heavy price for the latter being used to fund elections. See: Should we privatize Medicare? […]

  4. jack says:

    OF COURSE WE SHOULD PRIVITIZE! why should people be forced into a socialist system they do not want to participate in? let people do what they want with their Money and let the market sort itself out

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