By Judy Deutsch
Sudbury Town Crier
July 23, 2008
July 30th will be Medicare’s 43rd birthday.
And many people across our nation will be celebrating the event by letting their Congressional representatives know that they want to be included, too.
They’ll do so be sending a birthday cake and/or card to their representatives saying, ” Happy Birthday Medicare: Now It’s time for Medicare for all” or “Support HR 676.”
HR 676 is the improved Medicare for all bill introduced in the House by Rep. John Conyers.
This bill provides the only way to achieve quality health care for all U.S. residents at an affordable price to the nation and to individuals.
You must know that overhead costs in the health insurance industry (and the resulting excessive paperwork for health care providers) represent 30 to 40 percent of each healthcare premium dollar, and that Medicare’s overhead costs are far less.
It is past time that our nation stopped ripping off the American people by paying so much for the marketing and advertising of health insurance policies, and for the huge salary packages of health insurance CEOs.
It is past time that our nation acknowledged that the fiduciary responsibility of the health insurance industry is to make profits for its shareholders, not provide quality care for its policy holders.
We individuals need to have a program that provides quality health care at an affordable price for all residents. Our industries need it so that they can be competitive with industries in nations where health care is not privately financed.
The enactment and implementation of H.R. 676 will provide such a program. It will improve the Medicare program that exists and expand its coverage to all U.S. residents.
We would each receive a United States Health Insurance Card and would be entitled to primary care and prevention, inpatient care, outpatient care, emergency care, prescription drugs (which will be bought in bulk at negotiated prices), durable medical equipment, long-term care, mental- health care, the full range of dental services other than cosmetic dentistry, substance-abuse treatment services, chiropractic services, basic vision care and vision correction., and hearing services including hearing aids.
We would be entitled to this care from a licensed clinician anywhere in the United States without paying deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance.
And we would pay for this care by:
* using the federal and state funds currently being used for current health programs,
* a payroll tax of 4.7 percent on all employers and employees,
* a 5 percent health tax on the top 5 percent of income earners and a 10 percent tax on the top 1 percent of income earners,
* a one tenth of 1 percent tax on stock and bond transactions
We would spend less for our health care than we do now. A family of three making $40,000 per year would spend approximately $1,600 per year for health coverage, average employers will spend less for health coverage than they do now, and Physicians for a National Health program has estimated that our nation would save over $286 billion a year in total health care costs.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services would administer this system through a director appointed by the secretary. Under the director, there would be an office of quality control which would conduct annual reviews on the adequacy of medically necessary services and would make recommendations for proposed changes to Congress, the president, and the secretary. And a National Board of Universal Quality and Access would be established to ensure quality, access and affordability.
The director would be charged with making a good-faith effort to create a uniform electronic billing system, including in those areas where electronic billing is not yet established.
Annually, there would be established: an operating budget; a capital expenditures budget, reimbursement levels for providers, and a health professional educational budget, including the continued funding of resident physician training programs. The director would provide regional offices with an annual funding allotment to cover regional global budgets, reimbursements to clinicians, and capital expenditures.
Global budgets of providers would be established through annual negotiations between providers and regional directors.
Private health care insurers would be prohibited from selling coverage that duplicates the benefits provided in this bill, but could sell coverage for additional benefits such as cosmetic surgery and private rooms. Workers displaced from their health insurance industry jobs would be eligible for retraining and first preference for jobs in the new system.
HR 676 has 90 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. It has been endorsed by the Kentucky and New Hampshire Houses of Representatives, the New York State Assembly, and by dozens of cities and counties from Baltimore to San Francisco and from Warren County, Tennessee, to majority Republican Rensselaer County in New York.
Recently, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing more than 1,000 cities with populations over 30,000, unanimously adopted a resolution in support of H.R. 676. The recent General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA proclaimed single payer, universal national health program “the program that best responds to the moral imperative of the gospel,” and the June 2008 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association endorsed H.R. 676.
So have 34 state AFL-CIO federations, 110 central labor councils, more than 445 union organizations, and international unions.
Recent polls have shown that 59 percent of physicians nationwide now support single-payer and that 65 percent of people believe: “The United States should adopt a universal health insurance program in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxpayers.”
To do otherwise, is to continue to undermine our nation’s health and its pocketbooks. Just how much longer do we want to spend more than twice as much as any other nation for health care and still be among the highest in infant mortality and among the lowest in longevity
Please send a birthday card to our Rep. Niki Tsongas, asking that she support improved Medicare for all, HR 676.