Friday, August 21, 2009

The Over 60 Crowd Gets Nervous about Health Reform

Thc crowd most anxious about health reform these days is not the uninsured, but the people who have insurance already, in particular, the elderly on Medicare. This angst is partly due to lack of trust in President Obama, who said recently, ““If you’re on a public program like Medicare you’ve got something to worry about because we’re going to be running out of money,”

We Medicare recipients may be old, but we’re not stupid. When Obama says he is going to “cut costs” and make health care “affordable” by cutting “waste and inefficiency” out of Medicare to the tune of $500 billion over the next 10 years the “young old” (65 to 75 ), “middle old’ (75-85), and “old old: (85 and older) are listening.

The old (I am one of them) know we take the most drugs, have the most illnesses, undergo the most operations and diagnostic procedures, and consume the most health care resources. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know when you grow old, bad things inevitably happen. Your days grow shorter, and the odds against you grow longer. You are vulnerable, and you know it. You’ve had it good up to now, maybe too good, but you’re not going to give it up now without a fight, like the ones now being conducted in town hall meetings.

President Obama has said his administration can make financial ends meet – pay for his $1.6 trillion plan (the OMB estimate) by squeezing $500 billion (his estimate) out of Medicare. Among other things, all we have to do , he claims, is to prevent disease, coordinate care, make care more efficient through ubiquitous EMRs, create a federal institute to compare what things work, and offer end-of-life counseling .

Trouble is the elderly aren’t buying the notion that his plan is either “revenue neutral,” will improve care, or won’t “pull the plug on grandma.” More than hlaf of Amerians believe health reform will worsen care.

Peggy Noonan,writing in today’s Wall Street Journal has gone so far as today tp say, we ought to pull the plug on Obamacare. Also today, August 21, the New York Times ran two articles the anxieties and angst of the elderly, “A Basis is Seen for Some Health Care Fears Among the Elderly” and “Where Elderly Back Obama, Health Care Anxiety,” even among his supporters.

President Obama insists ”Nobody is talking about cutting Medicare benefits.” But the politicians are talking about eliminating “unnecessary subsidies,” Medicare Advantage drug plans, therapies and diagnostic tests that “don’t work,” and dramatically reducing pay to specialists, especially cardiologists.

This Orwellian double-speak makes the elderly nervous, who have the sneaking suspicion that Obama seeks to redistribute care away from Medicare recipients to the young, immigrants, and the poor who have not paid into Medicare.


John said...

Many thanks for those reassuring words. Great public service, that. I'm sure we all feel better now.

Richard L. Reece, MD said...

Dear John: I don't know quite what you're saying, and I'm sure that elderly don't feel any better. Current health inflation is unsustainable, and something's got to give. The "give" is likely to be where costs are the highest.