Improve Medicare to help address health care system

By Raymond Feierabend, M.D.
Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier, Letters, July 29, 2012

“There will always be a need” reads the headline of the recent Bristol Herald Courier article reporting that about 3,000 people were expected to seek medical and dental care at the Wise RAM [Remote Area Medical] event. In that report, Teresa Gardner, one of the organizers of the event, is quoted as saying “our success is really a failure on the health care system, that we see that many patients.”

In an important study just published in the journal Health Affairs, researchers from The Commonwealth Fund found that, compared with working-age adults who are insured through their employers or who purchase health insurance on their own, Medicare beneficiaries 1) are more satisfied with their health insurance, 2) have better access to medical care, and 3) are less likely to have difficulty paying their medical bills. In addition, those enrolled in traditional Medicare are more satisfied with their coverage than those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans.

In a recent opinion piece published in the Des Moines Register, Jack Bernard, a (Republican) member of the Jasper County Georgia Board of Commissioners and the Jasper County Board of Health, tells his fellow Republicans that if they really want to abandon “Obamacare” they should embrace “Medicare for all.” After providing his cogent reasoning for why this makes most sense for the country, he argues that doing so would put Republicans in the vanguard of reform, and that not doing so is simply putting their heads in the sand.

Isn’t it time that we stop putting our collective heads in the sand? We need to look seriously at improving our current Medicare system and making it available to all Americans as the way to address our failed health care system.

Dr. Raymond Feierabend resides in Bristol.