Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Medicare Daily Report

The MEDICARE DAILY REPORT is a compilation of news items about the politics of Medicare, along with commentary about current political developments related to Medicare.

Medicare is one of the greatest American success stories.  Before Medicare was enacted in 1965, aged and disabled people had limited access to physician and hospital insurance.  People over 65 found it almost impossible to get private health insurance coverage once they left their job, and one national survey found that nearly half of the elderly did not have any health insurance.  Given the high cost of health care, the financial consequences both to older Americans and to health care providers was significant and growing worse.

Medicare gave America's working men and women a chance to contribute to their own health insurance in preparation for retirement.  Thus, they could better rely on their own savings and Medicare coverage, instead of looking for public welfare or charity care.

With its passage, Medicare was considered the prudent, feasible, and dignified way to free the aged from the fear of financial hardship in the event of illness and to support the health care system.  Thus, Medicare made access to health care a universal right for Americans once they reached age 65.

Among the strongest and most admirable of American values is working together to solve the largest problems that prevent us from becoming the greatest country and people we can -- creating solutions that make us stronger as a country and as a people.  Medicare is such an achievement.  Medicare matters.  We would be diminished as a country and as a people without it.

Improving and maintaining the common good, as Medicare does, is not only a noble American cause but also a noble American achievement.

We must not ever forget that it has been together, unselfishly, that we have made the greatest strides as a country and as a people.  We banned together in the Revolutionary War in an effort for the common good.  We created our government to address common problems and ensure the common good.  Specifically:

               "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

While America does, and should, honor the rugged individualist, we must never forget that this is an exceptional person.  The great majority of us cannot reach that stature, and even those few who do still need the rest of us.  Our glorious history is full of examples of how individual selfishness was put aside in favor of the common good.

Unfortunately, there also are examples of self-interested individuals and groups who advocate only for themselves -- even with lies and trickery.  We easily can say that for the past 25 years or so, people with vested self interests have dominated politics and business to such an extent that the common good has been compromised.  (For example, government taxes wages harder than it taxes capital gains; thus, a worker pays more on a dollar earned than does an investor.  Another example, some businesses are legally considered people and, although they cannot vote, they can spend millions of dollars to influence elections and our elected representatives, while we simply cannot afford to do so.)  Clearly, things are out of balance between those who actively advocate for further advantages for themselves and those who favor the common good.

I have created this blog to talk about Medicare (and thus also about the common good), because I believe strongly that there is too much selfishness and too little common sense, too much anger and  too little discourse, too much vitriol and too little rational thought, too much ideology and too little statesmanship.

Following America's best examples of success, we need to address the real problems of Medicare.  It may be that it has been so successful in assuring access to affordable care that we take those benefits for granted.  Without Medicare, these problems will re-appear.  We need to keep the basic promises of Medicare by strengthening its commitment to the aged and disabled and solving the problems that get in the way of keeping its promise.

Many Republicans, Conservatives, Libertarians, (and now Tea-Partiers) -- after 45+ years of Medicare success -- want to regress, to turn back to darker days for the elderly, the disabled, and their families.  Instead, we need to make progress by fixing Medicare's problems.  In addition, we need not continue the similarly out-of-date thinking of Democrats and Liberals as to the range of solutions.  Instead, we need to create progress via practical solutions to the real problems which have to do with financing, eligibility, and effectiveness.  On these, there is much room for analysis, debate, reconciliation, and improvement.

The real problem is NOT the very existence of Medicare as if it were some kind of un-democratic institution.  Medicare is not a threat to democracy.  Truly, Medicare has made us a better country and a better people.

With this blog, I hope to appeal to the best in us to work together to solve our problems.  We must reject the paths of ideology without compromise, values without tolerance, individuals without democracy.  Those paths lead to utter failure -- and a serious weakening of America and the American People.

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