How much is your health worth?

Recent editorial comment from the Albuquerque Journal.

We must look to changes that will meet future needs

THE JOURNAL published an opinion column by R. J. Samuelson,” Our heavy investment in the past is shortchanging our future,” on June 14. His point seems to be that Medicare and Social Security payments are going to come close to bankrupting this nation and must be reduced both in dollars and coverage, particularly aimed at the over-65 population and the disabled.

Samuelson in his concern for the percentage of federal spending for Social Security and Medicare fails to take into account that every wage earner since the early 1930 s has contributed to these funds. Both of these programs are self-funding through payroll taxes and do not, and have not, impacted the deficit. Samuelson states “. taxes will have to go up, but some spending will have to go down, and this is virtually impossible.” without cutting Social Security and Medicare.

It is possible by raising the cap on Social Security – fully funded to 2034 – and significantly reducing out-of-pocket costs for health care and health care costs in general by adopting Medicare for All legislation, e. g., HR 676.

Samuelson contends that the average citizen will live to age 85 and ” We. cannot afford to subsidize a fifth of the population for another 20 years…” By adopting the recommendations in the previous paragraph, we certainly can – and need to if we are to continue as a moral and humane people.

Samuelson also takes to task the projected interest payments on the national debt as a reason not to afford continuing Medicare and SS at the current levels and leaving ” little left for. infrastructure, housing, education..” I remind the nationally syndicated columnist that the debt is being increased by Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut and by the more than $4 trillion financed for the wars in the Middle East. It is past time to reorient our values and recognize how far astray we have gone.

” We are passing along to our children ” a government that “. invests heavily in the past and shortchanges the future,” concludes Samuelson. The past is the past; we must look forward to changes that will provide for the future. Austerity is not the answer.

HERBERT J. HOFFMAN Albuquerque (Member PDACNM Healthcare not Warefare Action Team)

Private insurers should not dictate our health care

JUST WHAT kind of economic reality is implied in your June 16 editorial? Certainly not the kind in which the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ( OECD ) and Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein ( Professors of Public Health at the City University of New York ) state that the United States spent more that $10,000 per person on health care, while countries ranging from the United Kingdom to Switzerland spent from $4,190 to $7,920.

Certainly not the kind in which, despite its financial outlay, the United States was, in 2016, rated, according to OECD, 81 st in life expectancy at birth, and in which the World Health Organization ranks the United States 37 th in the world for health care. HR 676, the leading single-payer bill, seeks Improved Medicare for All, not the current Medicare system in which pharmaceuticals cannot be purchased wholesale at negotiated prices, and not a system in which dental services, prescription drugs, hearing aids and basic vision care are not included.

As your editorial states, the current Medicare probably is ” a massive bureaucratic exercise,” but that is because it covers a massive amount of people and does so at a cost far less than private insurance companies charge for less care.

Your editorial refers to the bill that would allow currently ineligible people to buy into the present Medicare, and you question its economic feasibility. However, if subscribers paid just some of what they are already paying to private insurers, that would probably make even the present Medicare system more economically feasible for some time to come.

That would not be as good as legislating and implementing HR 676, but it would be an improvement. For too long, we have allowed private insurers to dictate what health care procedures we could have and even what health disabilities would prevent us from being insured.

REVEREND JUDY DEUTSCH Albuquerque Editor ‘ s Editor’s note: Deutsch is former chair of the Mass – Care ‘ s Mass-Care’s Legislative Committee.

Seniors likely to get short end of Medicare stick

I AGREE… that the Democrats’ ” Medicare for All ” proposal is a bad idea. In addition to the disadvantages noted in your editorial, expanding Medicare would make an existing doctor shortage much worse. This would be devastating for the senior citizens Medicare was designed to help.

About 30 percent of physicians do not treat Medicare patients because they lose money on the government’s reimbursement. Many more doctors limit the number of Medicare patients they see. When my physician retired, I had to scramble to find a new doctor – any doctor, anywhere in Albuquerque – who was accepting new Medicare patients.

If our senators get their way, seniors will have to compete with thousands of younger, healthier patients to see a limited number of doctors. The wait times veterans are seeing for VA health care is a small taste of what Medicare expansion is likely to bring.

If our politicians truly want to expand access to health care, there are things they can do to increase the supply of medical care and reduce its costs. The government can expand physician training, expedite immigration for foreign medical professionals and offer incentives to family doctors. Modifying state regulations can enable nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to treat a broader scope of ailments, and encourage companies like CVS and Walgreen’s to expand their walk-in clinics.

Allowing our politicians to increase the demand for Medicare without expanding the pool of health care providers is a prescription for disaster that would hurt seniors the most.

JAMES A. MCCLURE Albuquerque

Priority in U. S. is policing world, not our health care

AS A RESPONSE to the Editorial ” ‘ Medicare for All’ needs dose of economic reality,” June 16, I would like to respond to the ” huge” questions posed to readers at the end of the editorial.

1 ) Do you want the government to control and ration health care? The government already does this by allowing private insurance companies to continue to ration the health care and medical procedures of most Americans, other than the members of Congress and their families whom they cover with lavish benefits and ease of health care access. For example, Melania Trump recently underwent an embolization procedure on her kidney. For almost all Americans, this would have been an outpatient procedure, home the same evening or, at the most, a one-night allowance in the hospital. Melania stayed five nights at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. For many other Americans, the condition would not even have been diagnosed as they lack access to primary care. Would I prefer to deal directly with the government through Medicare rather than be manipulated and forced into the briefest care with thousands in co-pays demanded by private, for-profit insurance companies? Yes, as these companies will always be in business to figure out how NOT TO PAY and how to make us pay more.

2 ) Do you want a system where you call your congressman to lobby for a colonoscopy? This seems unlikely as congressmen and women rarely answer the phone. However, I have an acquaintance who waited nearly four months here in New Mexico for a biopsy on a tumor that was suspected to be malignant. Perhaps calling Congress for care would be more expedient. It’s hard to believe it would be worse.

The Journal is concerned about ” dollars and cents,” and the impending insolvency in the Medicare program. This is a legitimate concern, but comparisons are needed. In 2015, the spending for the Pentagon, including the four branches of the U. S. military, totaled $598 billion. Trump proposes an increase to $681.1 billion. This is more than the combined military budgets of China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the U. K., India, France and Japan combined. All the citizens of these countries have access to some form of national health care coverage. In addition, the U. S. provides Israel with $38 billion a year in military aid, which likely helps to offset the cost of their excellent heath care program. It’s not that the United States lacks the money to provide quality care to all of its people, it’s where the U. S. chooses to spend it. If policing the world with all of our high-tech military apparatus remains the top priority of this country, than decent, quality health care for all remains ephemeral at best. Unless, of course, you work in the White House or on Capitol Hill!

MEREDITH LINK Albuquerque

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