There are some real benefits to being classified as senior citizens, at least that is true in my community. In addition to the five good colleges within a mile — plus a graduate university and a seminary — we have Medicare! Our retirement community is unique in that no one is admitted if they are past 78, so nobody comes here to do nothing other than sit around and wait for the inevitable. Even so, many of our conversations center on what we call, “our diminishments.” We all have one kind or another. You can imagine that our group discussions often consist of a series of recitals about our latest medical disasters. But any extended discourse is often greeted with bored looks and yawns.
While our symptoms vary, many of us are blessed with a Medicare HMO. This body pays for practically everything from a regular office visit, to $50.00 for brain surgery. When I arrived here 14 years ago I had budgeted several hundred dollars a month for what is called Medigap insurance, only to find we didn’t need it. Our providers are excellent, our waiting times miniscule and our specialists and hospitals are first rate.
Given my exposure as a columnist, however, I am often encountered by folks my age who write me about how we need to keep the government out of their private affairs. During my correspondence with these folk I happen to ask them if they are on Medicare, as am I, and if so how they feel about it. Almost to a person they say they don’t know how they could survive without it.
But then the conversations often take a turn and we began to discuss a series of other matters where there is a hearty difference of opinion. If “Obamacare” comes up in the conversation, one can just hear the clanking of the steel doors as minds shut down. Of all the despised government programs this one heads the list. “The government needs to keep its hands off medical care! Let the private sector handle these things.” If I am in one of my occasional nasty moods, I remind them that by their own admission they don’t see how they could make it without Medicare — which happens to be a very large government program! In most instances I don’t bother to point out the obvious. If they can’t see the absurdity of the thing, I doubt if my bringing it to their attention will soften many attitudes.
While I don’t push these conversations much farther, it occurs to me that the logical extension is a system which covers everyone, be that “Medicare for all,” or some other national program. If such systems are right for every other developed nation on the globe, why not for the good old US of A? It has got to be better than what we have now — a medical system which is almost twice as expensive any other in the world, and in which we rank thirty-seventh in the quality of care, somewhere behind Chile and Morocco.
We have a generation of older folks many of whom are the backbone of a political party dedicated to repeal “The Affordable Care Act,” as if it really were socialized medicine. The Democrats have not and will not offer any proposal which would cover everyone, be that a single payer system or any other program. While nobody in his or her right political mind will dare attack Medicare, as long as we are dominated by an “I’ve got mine and to heck with you” mentality, we will continue to have the largest percentage of uninsured people in any developed nation.