The Human Costs of the War on Social Security and Medicare

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With friends like the Republican Party, seniors don’t need enemies.  Americans work their entire lives to provide for their families. Throughout that period we  contribute to Medicare and Social Security in the name of providing a safety net for the golden years of our lives.  Yet, the Republican Party continues to call these programs “entitlements” as if they were an undeserved handout (unlike the bonuses that executives get for destroying our environment, the economy or both.)

We already know about the despised Ryan plan that seeks to replace Medicare with coupons that won’t come anywhere near covering the costs of premiums, co-pays and all those other wonderful goodies that come with the private health care “system.”

It’s bad enough that corporatists seek to line insurance providers pockets with policies that really amount to a Ponzi scheme.  The trend is toward creating a monopoly of high deductible plans. In other words, it’s about paying premiums to insurance companies simply because they exist while paying for more of our healthcare needs as if we didn’t have any insurance.

As noted by Wendal Potter:  corporate health insurance isn’t about providing people with options to suit their needs, nor is it about providing the security that comes with insurance.

Even in 2008, the last year I worked for an insurance company, my colleagues in the sales division were encouraging employers to go “total replacement,” which means eliminating all choices except high-deductible plans. Insurers have long used proprietary “studies” supposedly proving that making people pay more out of pocket for medical care will “incentivize” them to lead healthier lives.

It is about increasing profits by shifting more of the costs for previously insured healthcare to the consumer.  In other words, you pay for healthcare insurance, plus you pay the costs for your healthcare yourself.  There are corporatists who will tell you that the more you pay out of pocket, the more likely you are to live a healthier life style.  Of course, you’re not supposed to notice that earning enough to feed your family, have shelter etc. would also contribute to living a healthier life style.  However, I digress.  This is more of the same mindset that sees healthcare generally and health insurance especially as just another business.

I guess that’s why hospitals inflate costs for over the counter items  It doesn’t have a thing to do with increasing profits. It’s all in the name of promoting a healthy lifestyle. That’s as truthful as the claim that voter suppression is about preserving election integrity.

Except when factored in with other corporatist policies, a healthier life is the impossible dream at any age and more than impossible for seniors. True enough, part of leading a healthier life means making responsible choices like staying away from smoking. It also means having enough nutritious food to eat and having shelter from the elements -  both things are increasingly elusive to Americans stuck in low paying jobs, let alone people who want but can’t get work. For seniors, it means going hungry for longer periods, as they see a bigger cut of their income going to healthcare costs.

Even if we went with the notion that high deductibles will encourage people to make healthy life style choices, I don’t understand how anyone can accept a “system” in which the purpose of healthcare “insurance” is profit, rather than providing healthcare from which we would have a healthier (and more productive) society.

If people who don’t earn enough to lead healthier lives are charged more for lacking the financial resources to lead healthier lives, that means more people will be less healthy. We don’t need to try this out to see where it leads.  We only need to look at what poverty does to life expectancy in developing countries, or look to the correlation between increased poverty and illness along with the effects on life expectancy in this country compared to the days when we had a vibrant middle class.

Obamacare does improve the situation since insurance companies are now prohibited from discriminating against people with “pre-existing conditions” albeit with premiums costing 3 times more than a “normal” person.  Naturally this goes with insurance policies that operate on the premise of denying as many healthcare services as possible. Combine that with a high deductible healthcare plan, and the reality is that access to healthcare will only exist on paper.

Yes, it means that young people can continue on their parents’ insurance until they are twenty-six.  Given that more young people are working for minimum wage and without benefits, they won’t have to pay insurance companies for the benefit of paying their healthcare costs out of pocket.

This is the system that Paul Ryan’s coupons would partially buy for seniors.  In other words, seniors would see a reduction in their income thanks to the chained CPI  and more of that money will go to health “insurers” that only provide “insurance” with hefty deductibles.

I’ll grant that of the possible ways to steal Social Security to line the pockets of corporate America, the chained-CPI appears to be the most benevolent.  However, the chained CPI is a sleeping zombie that penalizes people for having the audacity to live longer.  The cuts get deeper, meaning less money for the increasingly high costs of coupon care, plus the increasing cost of paying for the healthcare costs aren’t insured under healthcare “insurance”.  It also means that seniors, especially women, will go hungry more days per month as they get older.  After all, silly Americans, if you’re lucky enough to live to be a senior, you’ll see that you are not “entitled” to food or access to “the best healthcare system in the world.”

As noted by JOHN WOJCIK of People’s World 

The “Chained CPI” is touted as taking into account that seniors cut back when prices rise.”They are actually saying,” Johnson wrote, “that because people have to cut back to cat food, then they should only be getting enough to pay for cat food. The elites love the ‘Chained CPI’ because it helps keep the government from raising taxes on the rich to pay back what was borrowed from Social Security and used to give tax cuts to the rich.

The chained CPI will hit every senior hard, but especially women. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the chained CPI means if you’re 70 you’ll go hungry 1 day a month, but if you commit the crime of living until you’re 95 you’ll be rewarded with hunger 13 days out of every month.

When you combine cuts to social security with the private health insurance system, and hospitals padding costs for basics like aspirin and gauze pads, seniors will have much more to worry about than if the Air traffic controller will be there to guide their private jet, or if they have to pay full price for a haircut.

Robert Reich explains:

Even Social Security’s current inflation adjustment understates the true impact of inflation on the elderly. That’s because they spend 20 to 40 percent of their incomes on health care, and health-care costs have been rising faster than inflation. So why adopt a new inflation adjustment that’s even stingier than the current one?

If the best healthcare system in the world doesn’t get you, the chained CPI eventually will. You’ll be glad to know, however, that your sacrifice means the corporate elite will be able to build more sweatshops.

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