Universal healthcare?

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Senator Bernie Sanders has advocated a “Medicare for all Americans” as a solution to the insurance crisis in this country. First of all, I agree that there is a crisis. I am personally aware of people who cannot obtain insurance for a variety of reasons, the high cost being among those reasons.

It’s not just the poor or the lazy who cannot obtain healthcare. There are plenty of men and women who work full-time jobs, or several part-time jobs, and insurance is not provided by the employer.

I am personally aware of a man with a family who works three jobs when he can but the cost of insurance is just not within his reach. Even if he could afford the premiums, the deductibles are in the $5,000 range. Yet, every day he continues to go to work with a condition that puts him in agony nearly every day.

What is he to do? He simply doesn’t know and so he pushes through the pain. He needs surgery but it is out of reach. The situation is played out in tens of thousands of lives every day.

Secondly, I have come to the place where I would like to see every citizen have healthcare. I don’t know if there is a “right” to healthcare but healthcare ought to be available in this country. It is a sad reality that Americans are, literally, suffering and dying because of a lack of available or affordable healthcare.

Thirdly, without insurance, a large number of people will not be able to obtain the services they need. I had a knee replacement a few months ago. The metal and plastic joint inserted into my body came at a cost of over $20,000 for the device. The cost of the knee and the surgery was well over $100,000. And I need to have the other one replaced.

Who among us could afford such an expense? What do you call someone who needs a joint replacement and cannot get it? A cripple.

Fourthly, I do have insurance. I am covered by Medicare and by a supplemental insurance policy. I am very happy with it although two of my medicines cost $946 a month. My copayment is in the neighborhood of $350. These are heart medicines.

What do people do when they need this medicine and cannot afford it? They die.

The senator advocates a “Medicare for all” plan. Well, here’s the problem with that: People who are on Medicare have been paying advance premiums for some 40 years before they ever see any benefit to themselves. And, even then, the premiums do not stop. I have to pay a quarterly bill to keep the coverage active. In addition, I pay monthly for my supplemental plan and an additional amount for my prescription insurance. If everyone gets Medicare, how does it get paid for?

And there is the rub. My guess is that the only solution for universal healthcare is a single payer plan.

But who pays and how? Will Americans be willing to sacrifice what it would take in budget cuts to finance universal coverage? Would they be willing to absorb copious amounts of new taxes so that all may be covered? In both instances, it is doubtful.

So why don’t the politicians do something? Obamacare doesn’t work. The insurance companies, whose goals are not to cover everybody but to make a profit, keep increasing rates. Doctors, nurses, and hospitals cannot operate on good will and hopes. What are they to do?

Certainly, they don’t agree. Finger-pointing is rampant, harsh words are batted back and forth, and, all the while, sick people are getting sicker and seriously ill people are dying.

Is there a solution? Well, that is the question, isn’t it? Everybody has an opinion but few have ideas. Those who have insurance are just grateful they have it. Those who do not have insurance see little possibility of obtaining it. Surely, as a great nation, we can do better.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]