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I am writing in reference to an article about the initial steps of the health-care overhaul now under way. The article only tells part of the whole story of health care and what is kicking in the United States.
It is certainly virtuous that the new health-care bill does provide coverage for about 1 million uninsured Americans by next year.
In addition, there are different benefits that go to people with preexisting illness. For certain, these benefits are worthwhile and something our society should accept in the care of these individuals. Unfortunately, this rejoicing over coverage of uninsured and others does not mention the many, many millions who are being uncovered.
By uncovered, I am referring to the fact that millions of individuals, including myself, on Medicare, and all people with disabilities on Medicare and all elderly individuals, are having their insurance coverage compromised by virtue of Medicare cutbacks in Washington.
For many months prior to the health-care bill passage, President Barack Obama and others said that, with passage of the bill, there would be hundreds of billions of dollars saved from waste in the Medicare program.
For certain, there is a certain amount of fraud in the program, but I was not sure where the waste was.
The waste now has been identified. The waste is individuals like myself, elderly patients over 65 on Medicare and those who are disabled. These individuals are included in Medicare cutbacks. Premiums did not drop; the deduction from Social Security is unchanged. So we are paying the same or even more, in some instances, for health care under Medicare, but getting less.
This is how it works. Medicare has been cut back about 21 percent in reimbursements to physicians and hospitals from earlier in the year. At first, it was said that this cutback would be reinstated and would not be permanent. Now it’s beginning to look more and more permanent, with more cutbacks on the way.
Compare this to buying a life insurance policy. Suppose you bought a life insurance policy and paid $1,000 a year so your wife at your death would have $100,000. Suppose you hit age 60; the company says from now on, you still owe the $1,000 premium, but your wife will only get $70,000. This analogy is very similar to what is being provided under Medicare.
Let’s relate this to statements provided by President Obama before the health-care coverage bill was passed.
He said if you had a private policy you like, if you have health-care coverage you don’t want to get rid of, you can keep it. In other words, it will be intact, all facets of it will be the same.
However, this is not what is happening in Washington. When reimbursements are reduced, suddenly there are changes in the delivery in the health-care system in the United States. There are millions of people on Medicare.
Here is what these recipients of Medicare are now facing as a result of the Medicare cutbacks: 1) More and more physicians say they do not take Medicare patients. 2) Primary-care physicians who do take Medicare are finding it very difficult to refer them to various specialists in other cities. 3) In cities close to Sumter, namely Florence, Beaufort, Charleston and Charlotte, primary providers are now charging concierge fees similar to fees you might pay to go to Clemson football games for premium seats.
In Beaufort, the charge is $2,600 a year per person to see one group of physicians. So husband and wife pay a total of $5,200 a year just for the privilege of having a physician. In Florence, the fee is $1,500 per person. This is spreading like wildfire.
This is not what Lyndon Johnson promised America in 1966. This is not what President Obama promised even four or five months ago.
What is happening in America is that when you reduce what you have previously given, there will be consequences.
There are many issues in the media these days, but there is a very definite lack of input from U.S. Rep. John Spratt and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn regarding the cutbacks on Medicare. I do not hear anything from these individuals or see any media coverage about the Medicare cutbacks. Are they in favor of the cutbacks? Or are they in favor of reinstating these payments?
Prior to the passage of the health-care bill, Nancy Pelosi, James Clyburn and President Obama were on television promoting health-care coverage. These individuals are not on TV telling you how much health-care coverage is being taken away.
I think they should give at least some notice of people who are now seeing their coverage compromised.
This issue is of prime importance to senior citizens. I would urge candidates Mick Mulvaney and Jim Pratt, who are running against incumbents Spratt and Clyburn, to speak up. This issue is an important one because the senior vote is most important in winning any election.
Are they in favor of the cutbacks or do they want to see the Medicare payments reinstated? This is critical to coverage for senior citizens. Many of these people are compromised mentally, have lack of vision and decreased hearing and they cannot comprehend those issues.
It is unfortunate that all these consequences reach across a broad spectrum.
It’s important that the full impact of the health care overhaul be disclosed.
Dr. Philip H. Brandt practices with Internal Medical Associates in Sumter.