Letter: Keelan missed the point on Medicare for All
To the Editor:
I fear that Don Keelan spent very little time learning the details of American health care before writing his most recent column, "Not so fast on Medicare for all." His main point seems to be that Medicare for All's main, maybe sole, purpose is to provide health care coverage for the 30 million Americans who currently lack it. That is manifestly untrue.
Medicare for All — more accurately "Improved Medicare for All" — has several primary goals, including: providing health care for everybody, including the 30 million currently uninsured; ensuring that the much larger universe of people who do have insurance can get health care when they need it without worrying whether they can afford the deductibles and co-pays; and lowering the costs of medical care for everybody.
Vermont recently reported that 3 percent of people under 65 had no insurance, but another 36 percent were "underinsured." The latter group had deductibles and co-pays that made it hard for them to get the care they need. The uninsured and underinsured together represent around a quarter of a million Vermonters who struggle to get health care. Extrapolate that to the national population and well over 100 million Americans need better, more accessible health care.
Vermont now reportedly spends in excess of $6 billion annually on health care. People who get their health insurance through work pay a higher percentage of the costs every year in the form of larger contributions to premiums, higher deductibles, and higher co-pays. Each year more of them have trouble affording care when they need it. Employers also pay huge amounts of money for employee health care, money which might otherwise go for salary increases, business expansion or additional hiring.
Mr. Keelan's claim that Medicare for All makes no sense until we "get the cost of healthcare under control," has things backward. Implementing a system like Medicare for All is how you begin to control those costs. The GAO long ago analyzed the Canadian health care system and reported to Congress that adopting it here would save so much money that we could afford to cover everyone and reduce or eliminate deductibles and co-pays.
Even Peter Shumlin acknowledged that Green Mountain Care, Vermont's never implemented universal care system, would have saved $378 million over its first five years.
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