Improving, expanding Medicare would solve health care problems

By Ed Weisbart, M.D.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Letters, Oct. 16, 2013

We should all celebrate the victory of the United Mine Workers of America in their struggle to retain their earned right to retiree health care ("Peabody strikes deal," Oct. 11).

For decades, UMWA has fought for this because it is physically impossible to work in the mines until the magic age of 65, when Medicare kicks in.

Last year, the mining industry manipulated bankruptcy laws and tried to rob the UMWA of these benefits. The union began a series of rallies in St. Louis, corporate headquarters of both Peabody Energy and Patriot Coal. Last week, UMWA announced that with the overwhelming support of many diverse groups in the St. Louis community, their retiree health care benefits are being reinstated.

Let this stand as a bellwether of social justice in health care. The seemingly impossible has again transformed into historical fact.

Eventually, perhaps tomorrow, we will figure out that the answer to our nation’s health care crisis is to improve Medicare and provide that to every American. Eliminate premiums and deductibles; fund it through our progressive federal taxes. Implement it easily through our Social Security system, which already has much of the infrastructure. The savings from administrative simplification would more than balance the new costs.

We could each go to the physician we select, not the one our employer’s health insurer offers us.

The answer to the American health care crisis is hiding in plain sight: improved and expanded Medicare for all.

Dr. Ed Weisbart is chair of  Physicians for a National Health Program-St. Louis. He resides in Creve Coeur.

[PNHP note: You can read the text or watch a video of Dr. Weisbart's speech to a Sept. 24 UMWA rally in St. Louis here.]