Lisa Left You Long Ago

untitledYou have to give Democrats credit for one thing. They can sure think up some nifty names for their programs.

Already on the presidential debate stage we have heard about Medicare For All and the Green New Deal.

The labels ring well in the ear and catch the attention of the unwary. The Green New Deal is a product of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s imagination. Hyped as a last chance to save the planet, the legislation proposes solar panels on virtually every building in the country and limits on bovine-produced methane.

Then you read the fine print. Green New Deal is just a suggestion, a master plan Congress can use to craft future bills. AOC may have a point that emissions from the generation of electricity should be reduced, but this Alice in Wonderland approach looks like the Mad Hatter’s Ball.

While Democratic candidates pay lip service to AOC, they have their knives out when the topic turns to health care. Many candidates like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Corey Booker advocate Medicare For All.

Others including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Andrew Yang and Michael Bennet want to see private insurance still be part of the mix. Medicare For All puts everyone on the same footing.

This is the system in Canada and Great Britain. People have to wait their turn to be treated. Having a bunch of money and an expensive insurance policy doesn’t let you move to the head of the line.

Opponents argue Medicare For All will be extremely expensive – think billions of dollars – and will swamp medical providers when millions of people who have not had insurance suddenly have coverage.

Biden and the others, however, know union members and teachers – key Democratic constituencies – will not willingly give up their health plans. These are the people who walked picket lines and taught your ungrateful brats for Cadillac coverage and they want to keep it.

In this country, we have two health care safety nets. Medicaid protects the poor. Medicare insures the elderly. The gap in the middle can swallow millions whose employers do not offer health insurance and who can not afford private pay options.

Of 323 million Americans, 28 million are without insurance. The problem is particularly acute in Texas where the Republican legislature refused to increase the number of those eligible for Medicare when the Affordable Care Act passed.

While 8.6 percent of the country is without insurance, 16.6 percent of Texans arrive at the ER uninsured, according to a report by the Texas Medical Association. There are 27.8 million Texans. 4.5 million, including 623,000 children, go without insurance.

I had a friend named Lisa who could be a poster child for this issue. She had a business degree and made decent money for East Texas. Her employers, however, did not offer health insurance.

Because of her Crohn’s Disease, she could not get or afford a private pay policy. She also made too much money to qualify for Medicaid in Texas. Lisa’s health declined and she was forced to quit work.

She could not afford the tests necessary to discover what was wrong with her. She did finally qualify for Medicaid a month before the cancer killed her. Texas was one of the 14 states that refused to expand Medicaid coverage even though the federal government would pay for all the increase through 2016.

This time there can not be a way to opt out. If we do not go to a single payer – Medicare For All – plan, then we must close the gap of the uncovered. Lowering the age to qualify for Medicare will help.

Raising the poverty level to admit more into Medicaid will also be useful. Having an adequate plan that employers can afford will help many. We need ideas that help, not catchy slogans. How many more Lisas must leave us before we get this problem solved?

 

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