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Exploring Human Potential

Michael Bennet’s “Medicare-Xtra” = “Capitalism + Compassion”.

Posted on | April 3, 2019 | No Comments

Mike Magee

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law “Medicare,” a national insurance plan for all Americans over 65. He did so in front of former President Truman, who 20 years earlier had proposed a national health plan for all Americans, and for his trouble was labeled by the AMA as the future father of “socialized medicine.”

For Truman, there was a double irony that day in 1965. First of all, the signing was occurring at around the same time as our neighbor to the north was signing their own national health plan, also called “Medicare”, but there’s covered all Canadian citizens, not just the elderly.

The second incongruity was that Truman was fully aware that in 1945, as he was being tarred and feathered as unpatriotic by taxpayers for having the gall to suggest that health care was a human right, those very same citizens were unknowingly funding the creation of national health plans as democracy stabilizers in our two primary vanquished enemies – Germany and Japan – as part of the US taxpayer supported Marshall Plan.

Fast forward more than a half century, and we’re still trying to correct the error, and make Medicare available to all citizens. For nearly all Democrats, and for many Republicans, as I’ve stated, the focus now is on “for all”. Arguably we’ve not quite evolved as a culture or society to embrace the notion of “all for one, and one for all.” That would require not only universality but a sense of solidarity, which goes against several hundred years of ultra-competitive capitalism. But what if we were to shoot for “Capitalism Plus” with the (+) being compassion?

Our Medicare continues to have very high satisfaction scores among citizens over 65. So theoretically, it shouldn’t have to be forced on anyone. That’s why, this week, potential Presidential candidate, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), along with former VP candidate, Sen. Tim Caine (D-VA), suggested that pull vs. push was the way to go.

Their “Medicare-X” would allow anyone who chooses, to buy into Medicare. You like your employer insurance, with diminishing benefits and ever increasing deductibles and co-pays? Terrific, keep it! But if you would prefer the public plan with maternity benefits and mental health, with prevention and safeguards for pre-existing conditions, join the team.

Sen. Bennett says, “I see this as an attempt, a good-faith attempt, to try to address the gaps we have in our current health care system. It is an attempt to move us toward universal coverage. Everybody in America should be insured. I think every single Democrat sees that view and I hope over time Republicans in Washington will share that view as well.”

And he may be right. Presidential candidates Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), have signed on to the plan. But as I lay out in “Code Blue: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex”, the key to a healthy America is re-establishing appropriate checks and balances, eliminating insurance gaming of the system, reference pricing pharmaceuticals and outlawing DTC advertising, and addressing physicians prescribing behaviors which can only generously be labeled “sloppy.”

Consider these latest figures on Adverse Drug Events (ADE):

● 5 million older adults sought medical attention for ADEs in 2018

● 42% of older adults take 5 or more prescription medications

● There was a 300% increase in polypharmacy over 20 years

● 750 hospitalizations every day due to ADEs in older adults

● $62 billion in unnecessary hospitalizations over 10 years

● 150,000 premature deaths in next 10 years due to ADEs

Michael Bennett is on the right track. He’s done his homework and knows his history. What is left is to make “Medicare-X”, “Medicare X-tra” by embracing three additional principles:

1. Less is more. Insurance Simplicity = Savings and Enhanced Quality and Performance. 16 health workers for ever physician – that’s ridiculous.

2. Health = Full Human Potential (not the elimination of disease). Innovative Research is great, but it is no substitute for national health planning and public health programming.

3. The Public Option must eliminate Medical Industrial Complex profiteering. It hurts our nation and our citizens in equal measure. Reinsert appropriate checks and balances.

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