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Voices / Letters from readers

Let’s lower the Medicare age and avoid the ACA chaos

I am a fortunate 20-year beneficiary of America’s single-payer federal health insurance, Medicare. While it needs major improvement, it has excellent coverage and acceptance.

Medicare provides:

1) Free, fast, easy enrollment. Applicants must prove citizenship and payment into the system.

2) Insurance for seniors, disabled people, and those with two specific disorders.

3) Insurance independent of employment.

4) Insurance for all incomes, a one-class system.

5) Policies that cover individuals, without dependents’ insurance issues.

6) Portability to all states. Most providers accept Medicare.

7) Doctor of person’s choice. (Providers are not government employees.)

Aren’t these the basic features for universal coverage/access? What else in America provides this? Nothing. Gaps abound.

Since 1965, seniors have been so privileged. Let’s lower the Medicare age to zero.

Remember that Medicare is insurance; it does not provide health care.

From my privileged perch, I watch costly, frustrating enrollment chaos in the new state marketplaces mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Private insurers will eventually profit hugely. Yes, more people will be insured, but many of the neediest will be excluded.

The ACA’s intent to insure most Americans has been undercut by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that allows states to refuse additional Medicaid enrollment plus additional federal funding; 20 states currently have chosen this option, including Texas, with 25 percent uninsured poor.

Yes, there are many good things about the ACA, with more becoming insured through the exchanges. But millions of the poorest in some states will remain uncovered because of the Supreme Court’s apparent and effective commitment to inequality.

About 65 percent of seniors vote in national elections. More than half are Republicans. It seems that if they vote with their party, they’ll support the right wing’s efforts to privatize Medicare.

Yet ironically, senior citizens — now 16 percent of us and rising — have overwhelmingly endorsed Medicare. Few would give it up.

Margaret Newton, MD
West Brattleboro

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Originally published in The Commons issue #236 (Wednesday, January 8, 2014). This story appeared on page C2.

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