Friday, September 14, 2012

Let’s fix Medicare, not throw it away

The Eagle Tribune published an op-ed piece prepared by a guest columnist on Saturday, August 25, 2012. It highlighted how the Paul Ryan Medicare Plan was similar to the health insurance program enjoyed by members of Congress. I offered commentary to respond to the op-ed piece. It has never been published. Below is my response to the August 25 op-ed piece:

Let’s fix Medicare, not throw it away

Your editorial on Medicare (Eagle Tribune, Aug. 25, 2012) makes the case that the Ryan Medicare Plan is very similar to the health care plans provided to members of Congress.

The more important question is: does the Ryan Medicare Plan mirror the traditional Medicare Program? Not by a long shot.

Let’s look at accessibility and affordability. Medicare subscribers can visit any doctor and any hospital in the US that accepts Medicare. Federal health care plan options, like HMO’s or PPO’s, require subscribers to be part of a limited network of doctors and hospitals. The Medicare Part B monthly premium ranges from $ 80 to about $ 150, and the monthly premium for Medicare prescription drug coverage begins at about $ 20. A comparative single status monthly premium for non-Medicare federal health care coverage is several hundred dollars more.

The Ryan Medicare Plan seeks to reduce the overall cost and burden to taxpayers by shifting a significant portion of premium costs to eligible senior citizens. According to recently published articles, the average added premium cost to a Medicare recipient would be about $ 6,400 per year. A married couple on Medicare would see their premiums skyrocket nearly $ 13,000 per year. While it’s fair to say that some Medicare recipients can afford such an increase, the vast majority of seniors cannot. Under such a scenario, we can expect that millions of Medicare recipients will likely cancel their coverage. We will have effectively turned back the clock on medical care for seniors to a time when poverty, home foreclosures, and bankruptcy were the typical choices that seniors had to face.

Over the past 45 years, Medicare has proven to be a life saver for many. Now is the time to make a successful health care program even better. We can also agree that Medicare reform must be part of a comprehensive program of budget control and deficit reduction. But attempting to make major program and cost changes during an especially contentious presidential campaign will not achieve a fair and balanced result. A full and complete airing of proposed changes to Medicare from all parties must be made to all Americans in a transparent manner. Scare tactics and misinformation must not be part of the discussion.

John F. Zipeto
14 Canterbury Street
Andover, MA 01810