By Kathi Acosta
Once again, my heart is torn apart. Yet another young life tragically altered, and a community rallies to help her any way they can. She knows, and they know, that most of the help they can give her will be mostly temporary and she will have to struggle to have her needs met for the rest of her life. That’s what I can not stop thinking about. What is going to happen to her when the money runs out? What then?
And then I thought of the homeless and how horrible it must be to be both homeless and sick. Even worse, I thought of parents without insurance having to make a choice between paying the doctor bill or the mortgage. Or a family having to go hungry for a couple of nights because their youngest had to have a second prescription filled right before payday. What is going to happen to them?
It is time to demand Medicare for All.
What is Medicare? (http://public.findlaw.com/abaflg/flg-17-2b-1.html). Medicare is an insurance program. Medical bills are paid from trust funds, which those covered have paid into. It primarily serves people over 65, whatever their income. It also serves younger, disabled people and dialysis patients. Patients pay part of the costs through deductibles for hospital and other costs. Small monthly premiums are required for non-hospital coverage. Medicare is a federal program. It is basically the same everywhere in the United States and is run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency of the federal government.
Medicare for All would move the age requirement to 0 years. While the Affordable Healthcare Act goes a long way to cover more people, in the end it only serves to maintain the status quo – which is to say, keeps money flowing to the insurance executives and their board members, fails to cover everyone, and if you miss a payment, well, it is like you never had insurance at all. Ever. That’s the reality we live in today. You can make your monthly payments, pay your deductible and co-pays, and maybe, if you are not incapacitated to the point of not being able to pay your monthly premium, you are covered. But not if you miss that payment. For one month. You no longer have insurance. It doesn’t matter if you have been paying for six months or six years. The month you miss your payment, you have no health insurance. Doesn’t matter if you never use it. They still take the money.
When I lived in California, I went to a free clinic run by a retired physician and his wife. He told me that the only way to get healthcare costs under control was to get the money out of it. It took me way too long to figure out what he meant, but now I know. He was talking about the profit the insurance companies have been stealing from the public for decades now.
The Affordable Healthcare Act allows private insurance companies to claim 20 percent to 25 percent overhead. Medicare overhead is estimated to be 1 percent to 1.5 percent. Let’s round up Medicare’s overhead to 2 percent and keep private insurance’s overhead to 25 percent (being the greedy SOBs that they are). That leaves them with a healthy 23 percent profit margin.
Now let’s put some numbers to it. For the sake of the argument, lets say an insurance company has 10 million policyholders paying $12,000 per year in premiums. The gross collected from the premiums would be $120 billion, of which 23 percent would be $27.6 billion. That’s right, $27.6 billion. That’s $27.6 billion that is not going toward patient care. That’s $27.6 billion that is instead being divided up between the insurance executives and their board members. It is impossible to spend all that money in their lifetime, or their great-great-great-grandchildren’s lifetime, for that matter. What makes their lives so much more valuable than ours? Why should we live in fear of losing our house because we lack the ability to pay for health insurance? Why do we put parents in the horrible position of having to postpone healthcare for their child until a time they can better afford it? Or have to sit by their child’s hospital bed, racked with guilt for not bringing her in sooner?
What service do they provide for $27.6 billion that is worth the suffering of our children? Do you realize the many ways we could use that $27.6 billion? No co-payments, no deductibles to pay. If you are unfortunate to require emergency care, wouldn’t it be wonderful if your care came first, and not how you are going to pay for it?
Why do we tolerate such misery? We have the power to make a lasting impact, to make this a better place to live for everyone. We are well-connected. We have the time. Through our connections with family, friends and businesses, we can raise enough voices to force those in Olympia and Washington, D.C. to listen to us.
The last time I looked, the U.S. Constitution vested the most power in we, the people. We have the power over our legislators. They have to do what we want them to do, not the other way around. The only way they can continue to get away with what they are doing is if we are kept silent. I say it is time we unleashed the wrath of all mothers whom they have scorned and let hell rain down on them all. If you agree, contact your representatives and senators. It is past time for Medicare for All. Make them make it happen.
Kathi Acosta is an Eatonville resident.