I became eligible for Medicare in 2015, and enrolled shortly after. It turned out to be one of the best days of my life.
Before that time, I had been buying insurance on the “free market,” although there is nothing free about it.
I’d been self-employed most of my life. In college at the University of Washington — during the Ice Age — all students were covered and could use the health facilities for free.
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After college, I enrolled with Group Health Cooperative. Back in the ’70s, it cost a little more than $20 a month. For that we got all medical and drug expenses for free. Let me make sure you understand: There were no copays or deductibles. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Over the years, that idyllic version of American health care disappeared. By the time I was in my 50s, health insurance had soared to $500 to $600-plus a month (just for me), and the deductibles were insane. During my 50s, my doctor recommend I get a colonoscopy. I called my insurance company to ask about my copay and learned it was $1,000! That colonoscopy didn’t happen until I was covered by Medicare.
In 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the original bill into legislation, Medicare was free for all seniors. Now it costs a little more than $100 per month (not complaining). Back then all your medical and hospital costs were covered. Now you get about 80 percent coverage. But you can buy supplemental insurance, which I opted to do. For an additional $214 a month, all my medical bills are paid. There is no “in network” restriction. I can go anywhere I want, providing I can find the right doctor, and get it covered. Often alternative health providers are included, as well.
Prescription medications are covered by yet another insurer. Again, it’s a reasonable amount — $25 a month — and well worth it.
I pay about $350 a month for no deductibles, 100 percent coverage and most prescription drugs are under $10 for a three-month prescription.
There is another obvious aspect to this: The above is for one of the highest risk populations in the country — seniors. If this amazing coverage can happen for us, it begs the question, why can’t it happen for all Americans?
Certain politicians decry “Medicare for All” as putting the government between you and your doctor. That’s a lie. Right now, insurance companies are between you and your doctor.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer early this year, paying for surgeries and treatment never crossed my mind. A close friend of mine experienced the same diagnosis with “free-market” insurance, and it took her more than four years to pay off her medical expenses.
The next time you vote, ask your candidates about Medicare for All. If they agree that health care is a right and not a privilege, give them your vote. It’s really a vote for you.
God Bless You, LBJ.