YOUR OPINION: Medicare (Dis)Advantage

Barbara Ross,

Jefferson City

Dear Editor,

Since 1965, Medicare has provided cost-efficient, readily accessible health care to seniors, like me, and people with disabilities.

Copious lobbying by for-profit health insurance companies has brought us the plague of "Medicare Advantage" plans, in which federal Medicare dollars are given to insurance companies as an annual lump-sum capitation.

Traditional Medicare is the most cost-effective and publicly popular program in our fragmented health care financing system. Ninety-eight percent of the Medicare budget goes to the provision of medical treatment. Private insurance companies have 10 percent or more in overhead while traditional Medicare has 2 percent.

Medicare Advantage plans are so profitable for insurance companies that they have poured a high percentage of their federal health care dollars into advertising -- not health care for enrollees. TV screens are flooded with these deceptive and misleading advertisements.

Medicare Advantage is only able to offer low premiums and out-of-pocket caps by delaying or denying care on the back end, and by discouraging the sickest patients from enrolling. For-profit health insurance is happy to take your Medicare health care dollars from our taxpayer-funded Medicare system, draining our Medicare fund of dollars available for vital services to Medicare enrollees.

Medicare Advantage allows seniors to choose their health plan (from private, for-profit insurance companies), but it restricts the much more crucial choice of doctor and hospital by using narrow provider networks. Medicare Advantage plans are notorious for denying health care to enrollees. Traditional/original Medicare always pays for everything under its umbrella of health care services.

So long as we allow profit-seekers to control our health, they will deny us care, stick us with exorbitant costs and keep the lion's share for themselves. The only true solution to our country's health care problem is Medicare for All, but if we allow corporations to take over Medicare, we will never see it achieved, and we will all be worse off, die sooner and be poorer for it.

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