Senior Citizens and Health Care Reform
Many senior citizens are concerned – very concerned that so-called health care reform will negatively impact the health care they receive through the nation's Medicare program.
Of course, it is speculation on the part of the seniors, because the only bills pending in Congress are written in that sort of legislative legalese that few can easily understand and interpret even if they did want to wade through over 1000 pages of jargon and obfuscation.
You might easily call seniors' concern over health care by the word “fear”. But that is not a bad thing. Fear gets the adrenaline going and it creates the fight or flight reaction in humans. From the reports around the country, many seniors have decided to fight. They are prominent in the Congressional townhalls being held around the country. They are joined by a mixed group of traditional conservatives and libertarians, as well as a handful of crackpots, of course.
Do seniors really have anything to fear? Many seniors and pundits think they do. Bills now pending in Congress will seek to squeeze savings out of Medicare. Seniors as a group simply do not believe this will be done without hurting them. When has government made anything more efficient is a good question and mostly rhetorical. The bureaucracy does not make things more efficient.
So, if it is not efficiency that squeezes money out of Medicare, what is it. Seniors fear it will be rationing of services, something regularly done in other countries with national health care systems, like Canada and Britain.
Talk of health care panels that decide what treatments work best and end of life counseling programs do nothing but raise the fear level.
As it now stand, between 34% and 46% of seniors oppose “health care reform”, while only 23% to 28% favor it.
Seniors and others ask questions that are not only pointed but logical: How do you provide new insurance to millions and millions of people without running out of money and doctors? How do you end the Medical Advantage programs that many seniors like and use without damaging the health care of those who are enrolled and favor such programs? How do you end “inefficiencies” without adversely affecting senior beneficiaries of the system?
For example, cardiologists see proposed changes in Medicare compensation reducing their payments. They complain that such changes will cripple their practices and reduce their ability to treat the elderly.
Senior Medicare beneficiaries see their use of Medicare as part of a contract with America. They worked a lifetime while being forced to contribute to Social Security and Medicare. They were promised in the original 1965 Medicare law that federal interference in the practice of medicine would be prohibited, as well as non-interference in institutions that provide health care. Seniors have seen the letter of this law ignored by the Federal government for decades now. They do not trust more soft talk from that government on health care reform. The meaning of that guarantee has continuously shrunk.
The current situation of AARP details just how concerned and angry seniors are. The organization has lost about 60,000 members over belief that the group supports the President's health care program. While AARP denies this report, its history of left of center advocacy does not increase confidence in its public statements.
AARP has become a large provider of health insurance to seniors, and that creates disbelief in its impartiality. They have a conflict of interest, and seniors have observed how some insurers and health care vendors have jockeyed for seat at the table in any redesign of the health care system.
Health Care Bill of Rights
Recently, Republicans have started supporting a Senior's Health Care Bill of Rights. While this may be a blatant political decision, such support will likely resonate with senior voters. And that will be the biggest problem for health care reform enthusiasts. The voting public, with seniors in the forefront, will vote out Congressional proponents of these bills.