Joseph Cotto, 10/20/2015 [Archive]

Could Medicare be Obamacare's Savior?

By Joseph Cotto

Like it or not, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Whether or not it will prove to protect patients and facilitate affordable medical care is another story.

Beyond any partisan rhetoric, it does seem that the PPACA will benefit many lower income Americans. While this is good news for a segment of society which has been treated like cattle by insurance companies for generations on end, all is not well for everybody else.

Lower insurance costs for the hard-pressed are being subsidized by those in the middle and upper classes. This is manifested in the cost of policies skyrocketing to an extent which most could hardly imagine.

A great deal on the right have been calling for the PPACA — colloquially referred to as "Obamacare" — to be repealed. While many have suggested alternative policies, it appears unlikely that any of these will seriously help the men, women, and children who have been abused by for-profit healthcare.

Really now, does anybody believe that whichever 'solutions' the Republican Congress trots out won't boil down to repealing bans against screening those with preexisting conditions and allowing insurance companies to raise rates even though their loyal customers are in no position to pay?

As we all surely remember, a hard-right band of congressional Republicans were set on stopping the PPACA from even being implemented. Their resolve, along with the refusal of political battle-weary Democrats to compromise, resulted in a federal government shutdown during late 2013.

Considering how the PPACA is forcing different economic groups into a perpetual tug-of-war, can one earnestly say that the program is working? Likewise, in light of how medical insurance companies have exploited the most vulnerable, who can say that the old system is worth going back to?

Our country needs something different.

A good idea might be creating a national health system based on what already exists. Why not expand Medicare so anyone above the poverty line is eligible for it? Those in dire straits would simply be able to use Medicaid as they do now.

Expanding Medicare shouldn't be done in a fit of haste, or without serious forecasting for what the program can handle during the years ahead. Even for those of us who aren't number crunchers by nature, publicly accessible data make clear that Medicare isn't a bottomless well of affordable care. It seems best that the system be adjusted for those under the age of 62.

Rather than pay 20 percent of healthcare expenses as Medicare-eligible seniors do now, individuals from 18 to 65 would be responsible for 50 percent. Young men and women would be allowed to remain on their parents' plan until age 26, much in the same way that Obamacare currently functions. Of course, minors would be on a parental plan in any case.

This would provide a basic healthcare package to citizens and legal residents — with no exceptions made for illegal aliens — of all ages.

Should eligible adults want more out of their package, then they would be able to purchase various options from the private sector, though with strict price controls. As for illegal aliens, well, why are they here in the first place?

While a proposal like this is sure to generate controversy both on the left and the right, it just may be the blueprint America requires to heal itself.

Isn't that the ultimate goal of healthcare, beyond business or politics? Why have we lost sight of what really matters here?

Perhaps this is one of those questions whose answer scares us too much for honesty.

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Copyright 2015 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

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