Medicare for all would save billions on paperwork

By Melissa Stiles, M.D.
The Capital Times (Madison, Wis.), Aug. 4, 2011

Medicare’s path started 46 years ago on July 30, 1965. Medicare has been a lifesaver for millions of senior and disabled Americans. Medicare has improved the health of our seniors, reduced their risk of poverty, and improved the financial security of their families.

Unfortunately, there are discussions in Congress that would steer Medicare off path. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” proposes to shift Medicare to a private voucher system. Other proposals would increase the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, and increase deductibles and co-pays.

These approaches would increase the number of uninsured Americans and shift costs to Medicare recipients. The Congressional Budget Office estimates Ryan’s plan would shift two-thirds of the cost of care to consumers by 2030, with out-of-pocket costs amounting to over $20,000 per year for each Medicare recipient.

The current economic crisis was not caused by Medicare and will not be solved by cutting benefits or shifting costs to beneficiaries.

We should look to build on and expand Medicare, not weaken or dismantle it. By replacing our patchwork of private and public insurance programs with a single publicly financed system that handles all bills, we would save about $400 billion annually that’s currently spent on unnecessary paperwork and overhead — enough to provide comprehensive coverage to all the uninsured and to improve coverage for the rest of us.

Now is the time to take the path forward to an improved Medicare-for-all health care program.

Melissa Stiles, M.D., is a member of the Wisconsin chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program. She resides in Madison, Wis.