In Virginia in 2017, nationwide in 2018, and again in Virginia last night, the Democrats in both state races as well as national House races, scored breathtaking victories by running on “kitchen table issues.” What came out of a candidates mouth after the words “kitchen table issues” was a smorgasbord of issues that actually mattered to their constituents, and that they provided ideas and solutions for.
The last time I checked, the 2020 Democratic primaries were supposed to be a national version of the Democratic state and House strategy, the primaries were supposed to center on “kitchen table issues.” But as the primaries have gone on, the kitchen table has started to look more and more like the dining room table, and the meal is Thanksgiving, with Medicare-for-all as the 30 lb turkey in the middle of the table, and everything else just kind of packed in around the edges. Medicare-for-all has kind of just become the cause d’jour of the 2020 Democratic primaries.
The issue has broken down into to separate and distinct armed camps. There is the Sanders/Warren hard Medicare-for-all program, where there will be a defined transition period while the country changes as a whole to a government run healthcare system, based on the current Medicare model, after which private, for profit medical insurance will no longer be available. Then there is the Medicare-for-all-who-want-it camp that pretty much everybody else is in. This plan would make a Medicare based government system available to anybody who wants to enroll, but would leave private, for profit healthcare companies still in operation for those that are happy with, or at least can tolerate, their current coverage. The rest is window dressing.
Well, surprise, surprise, it turns out that I have something to say about that. And not just because I’m an Irish bigmouth with a laptop and a ton of spare time on my hands. I have something to say about it because in the last 5 years, I’ve actually been on both sides of the Medicare-for-all coin, and in a very personal way. The purpose of this article isn’t to convince you one way or another, nor to express my personal opinion, which I will do at the end, but simply allow you to see the issue through the eyes of some on both sides of the issue.
Medicare-For-All – As most of you are probably already aware, I am medically disabled. I suffer from progressive glaucoma, for which I am about to start treatments. The treatments won’t cure it, there is no cure for glaucoma, but they will stop the progression so that my vision won’t get any worse. What some of you, but probably not as many may also know, is that very recently I finally began receiving disability checks from Social Security because of my condition.
Now, by the simple fact that qualifying for disability means that you have a pre existing condition that no self respecting private insurance company would touch with fire tongs, and since Social Security Disability Insurance is run by the federal government, and is a plan you’ve paid into all of your working life, that qualifying for disability would mean that you automatically qualify for early entry into Medicare. And you’d be right. But because we’re dealing with the federal government here, you’d also be wrong.
For reasons known only to the politicians, and their grubby minions, with the exceptions of most forms of cancer, and an extremely narrow band of devastating neurological conditions, there is a two year waiting period from the day you qualify for Disability payments to the day you become eligible for early entry into the Medicare program. Yeah, you heard that right. The government admits that you have a physical disability, severe enough that they pay you for it since you probably can’t work for yourself, and then they stick you in the middle of a medical no-mans-land for two bloody years.
So, do I want Medicare-for-all? No, not necessarily. What I really, really want is Medicare-for-ME! For me, and the thousands more like me that every year qualify for medical disability benefits, but for totally unknown reasons find themselves in the middle of the dead zone for medical coverage. The Medicare-for-All plans offered by both Warren and Sanders would fill that hole, since you’re covered by Medicare from day one, and like your social security number, it stays with you for life, from job to job, to retirement. And that’s the argument they make every night, in every rally. And it’s a valid argument, especially to someone like me.
Medicare-For-All-Who-Want-It – Before I became disabled, I spent the last nine years of my work life employed by a major online retailer. Their entire business strategy was that happy employees meant happy customers, and boy did they go whole hog on happy employees. The dress code was almost non existent, lunch was cheaper than you could make it yourself, beverages, both hot and cold were provided, and everybody loved their job, which meant that the customers loved calling the employees.
One of the major benefits that the company offered was medical insurance. The company ate the entire cost of covering the employee, and for me to cover Teri only cost me $100 a month. And this wasn’t just medical insurance, this was the kind of coverage that, back in the days of the Affordable Care Act debate was called “Cadillac” coverage. The plan also offered great dental and vision plans at extremely affordable prices to employees. Even with Cadillac plans, there are deductibles and co-pays, which is why the company set up Health Care Accounts for every covered person, and stuffed it with enough cash to cover those that my full knee replacement, which assayed in at just over $104,000 when you totaled up all of the bills that came in, ended up costing me just over $800 out of pocket.
Now, put yourself in my position five years ago. You have the kind of healthcare pan that covers pretty much everything, with little to no paperwork, and almost literally no deductible, co-pay, or out of pocket expenses. It’s costing me $100 a month to cover two people with that warm, fluffy security blanket, and with the wages the company paid, that was not a financial burden. And now somebody comes along and wants to stick you with Medicare-for-all? What would you say to that idea? And there are still companies out there that offer similar, if not identical coverage, mostly tech and union covered businesses. Those workers fought hard for those benefits, and gave up other things to get them and now somebody wants to take it away? Good luck with that.
And it isn’t just Cadillac plans, there are other, more moderate plans out there that, while people may not love them, suit their needs. And one thing about humans, if they’re not in a situation that requires change, then they’re pretty likely to be resistant to change. Even if people might wish that they had something better, they’re unlikely to want to take chance on upsetting the apple cart of the comfortable and familiar and gamble on an uncertain outcome, especially with something as personal and life critical as their healthcare.
So, there you have it. I have tried to make both of the scenarios I outlined as impersonal and opinion free as possible, and just present the facts as I have lived them and understand them. The object of this exercise wasn’t to bring you around to my position, but to let you see it as clearly as possible from both positions.
Oh yeah, my personal opinion? If the candidate handles it right, Medicare-for-all-who-want-it would pretty much become Medicare-for-all in five years or less. And not for any nefarious plans or schemes, but simply because of economics.
Teri gets her healthcare through her work, and pays $38 a week, which totals out to $152 a month. The projected Medicare deduction from 2020 Social Security payments is $135 a month. Why would Teri want to spend an extra $205 a year for what might well end up inferior coverage? She’d obviously opt in to Medicare.
And what about her employer? Most employers offer medical insurance coverage on a split. If it’s costing Teri $152 a month for coverage, it’s costing her employer at least as much. Why wouldn’t the employer simply drop medical care as a benefit, explaining to the employees that the Medicare plan is at least as good, and cheaper to boot. Even if the employer wanted to be good about medical, simply drop medical coverage, and give the employee a raise that equals out to both sides paying $67.50 a month? It’s a win-win for both sides.
To know the future, look to the past. before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen