Medicare is broken. Medicare spending is out of control. Medicare will go bankrupt in 2024. If we don't act soon, Medicare will bankrupt the entire country.
Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.
The whole US health care system is broken, but Medicare isn't what broke it. Medicare is the glue that holds it together. Without Medicare, the whole system would have collapsed long ago...
Most people understand Medicare as an insurance system for seniors. You turn 65, you get Medicare. Without Medicare, millions of senior citizens wouldn't be able to afford health insurance.
In reality, Medicare is an insurance program for hospitals. Hospitals can't legally or ethically refuse to treat dying patients. And the simple fact is that most people who are dying are old....
In other words, by the 1970s, the United States came very close to having universal health insurance. Statistics are not available for the period, but it is likely that over 90 percent of the population was insured, one way or another. Some people still fell through the cracks in the system, but not enough to bankrupt the hospitals.
What's more, insurance then was much more inclusive than insurance is now. People didn't face the high deductibles and large co-pays they do today. You got sick, you went to the doctor. For most people, it was that easy.
The result of near-universal health insurance was that by the 1970s, the United States had an efficient, low-cost health care system. Costs were rising, true, but service standards were also rising. In health care, as in everything else, you get what you pay for.
In fact, it's as close as you can get to a law in economics that health care costs have to rise faster than inflation. As agriculture and manufacturing become ever more productive, the prices of food and manufactured goods fall behind inflation. Inflation measures the average price. So arithmetically, the price of something else has to rise faster than inflation.
That something else is health care.,,,
Medicare needs saving - but not from runaway costs. The leaderships of both political parties seem intent on raiding Medicare to pay for tax cuts. Business interests want to dismantle Medicare to create more opportunities for private profit. And of course, the entire health care industry wants higher payments from Medicare for its services.
In the end, what we really need is more Medicare, not less. Every other rich country has universal government-supported (not individual-mandate) health care; every other rich country has dramatically lower health care costs; and every other rich country has higher life expectancy.
We should have had Medicare for all when Harry Truman first proposed it in 1945. We should have had it when Medicare for seniors was passed into law in 1965. We should have it today.
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