Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare!

Senior citizens, even those in the Tea Party, LOVE Medicare. But if Republicans have their way, senior citizens won’t have Medicare for much longer. Now that the GOP is in the hands of extremists, Republicans are taking aim at Medicare in an effort to shatter the middle class and senior citizens once and for all.

The government created Medicare for a good reason. Before the creation of the program in 1965, senior citizens were at the mercy of private insurance companies that put profit over people, much like they do today. As the population with the most medical expenses and the most risk of having health problems, private insurance companies largely refuse to insure senior citizens. In 1965, the Democratically controlled government had enough of this practice, and passed Medicare into law so that seniors would have health coverage. Since that landmark moment, Republicans, including a young Ronald Reagan have emphatically claimed that Medicare is socialism and have tried to dismantle it ever since.

Republicans claim that Medicare costs the government money and that private insurance will cover seniors after it is gone, but is this true? Republicans are correct that Medicare costs money, but it’s OUR money,not the government’s. Government does not magically fund Medicare. Taxpayers do. Medicare is partially financed by payroll taxes imposed by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act and the Self-Employment Contributions Act of 1954. In the case of employees, the tax is equal to 2.9% (1.45% withheld from the worker and a matching 1.45% paid by the employer) of the wages, salaries and other compensation. A self-employed individual, on the other hand, must pay the entire 2.9% tax on self employed net earnings, but may deduct half of the tax from the income in calculating income tax. Beginning in 2013, the 2.9% hospital insurance tax rises to 3.8% for individuals making over $200,000 or jointly filing couples making in excess of $250,000.

To be eligible for Medicare coverage, a person must be at least 65 years old and premiums are waived entirely if the person has paid Medicare tax for at least ten years. A person must also be a United States citizen that has lived here for at least five years. Those who are 65 and older must pay a monthly premium to remain enrolled in Medicare if they or their spouse have not paid Medicare taxes for 10 years.
All Medicare benefits are subject to medical necessity. Neither Part A nor Part B pays for all of a covered person’s medical costs. The program contains premiums, deductibles and coinsurance, which the covered individual must pay out-of-pocket. All Medicare Part B enrollees pay an insurance premium for this coverage; the standard Part B premium for 2009 is $96.40 per month. Clearly, seniors have paid for their coverage and all of us contribute to our own future coverage. We are paying for a service that we expect to have when we turn 65. But Republicans don’t care about our health.

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To compound the issue further, Paul Ryan’s budget proposal for 2012 looks to cut 6.5 trillion dollars over the next several years by not only destroying Medicare and Medicaid as we know them but also looks to eliminate programs that help the poor and the middle class and cuts taxes even MORE for the rich and corporations. So, in his budget, the poor, the middle class, and senior citizens get screwed and the corporations and rich get huge gifts of cash. Your cash. This budget plan makes it even harder to reach a compromise because Republicans are reaching far beyond what is acceptable to the American people. But Ryan’s budget is a load of crap that even makes Libertarians cringe. Ryan’s proposal actually increases spending 30 percent over the next decade, including a big increase in defense spending over the next ten years. The plan doesn’t even offer a balanced budget until 2063. Basically, Republicans are choosing militarism and trillions in tax cuts for the wealthy over the lives of seniors, whom they are throwing out into the cold. Many people under 55 would be thrown under the bus too. People that are under 55 with disabilities and certain diseases are also covered by Medicare.

Not one Republican candidate for President has fully embraced the Ryan plan and 76% of the American people find cutting Medicare to bring down the deficit unacceptable. But there is a change we can make to Medicare to make it a stable program for decades to come without privatizing it or destroying it. The best change we can make is to expand the program and turn it into Medicare For All. Medicare has been successful at keeping costs down and unlike private insurance companies, Medicare does not drop people from their coverage. Medicare is one of the most successful, compassionate, popular programs in American history. Even elderly Tea Party members love Medicare, hence their signs that read “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” Despite the fact that government runs Medicare, its plain that people love the program. Once every American is enrolled in Medicare, double the tax to 6% for those making $1 million dollars or more and apply that tax on ALL income, and collect monthly or yearly premiums from people under 55. That ensures that Medicare will never go broke. Everybody will then be safe from the vultures known as Republicans.

Would you pay extra taxes to make sure your grandparents have the proper care they need? Would you do it, if it meant you could spend extra time with them? I sure would. My grandfather passed away in 2005 and he had Medicare coverage. Without that coverage and the care he received because of it, I would never have been able to spend as much time with him as I did. And may not have become a writer either. In his final two years on this Earth, I became interested in his military service during World War II. I talked to him about it, I interviewed him and got to know him tremendously better during those years. After he passed away, I began writing about his life and experiences and that is the beginning of what has now become a great hobby of mine. Anybody who says that they want Medicare to be destroyed, doesn’t care about their grandparents. Private insurance will not cover senior citizens. That’s the nature of the insurance business. And since Republicans oppose regulations that would make private insurance companies honest, that is not likely to change anytime soon. Another issue I have with the Republican plan is their proposed voucher system for people under 55. Once a patient becomes costly to an insurance company, you can bet that insurance company will drop them and deny them further coverage. That leaves all future senior citizens in a very vulnerable position. Insurance companies are more interested in profit than they are in making sure a person gets the care they need. The government on the other hand, pays for it and has never dropped a patient from the program. That speaks volumes about how much we can trust the government with our health care.

Republicans have wanted to kill Medicare since its creation. As I write this, Republican Dan Lungren of California is claiming that the Ryan budget SAVES Medicare by destroying it. Let’s cut to the chase, Lungren and the rest of his Republican colleagues are lying assholes. You can’t save a program by destroying it. Republicans are giving senior citizens and future senior citizens a choice. They can either go broke paying for their own health care, or they can die. Without Medicare, many families would have to pay the high health care costs of their parents and grandparents. Senior citizens care about their families. They would rather die than be a financial burden on them. Remember the Republican claims during the health care debate two years ago that the government was “killing grandma” by passing the health care bill? Well, by killing Medicare, Republicans will not only “kill grandma” but will sentence grandparents across the country to certain poverty and death. We owe it to present day seniors and future seniors to make sure that Medicare and Medicaid remain as government programs. We need to fight for our parents and grandparents and punish Republicans for their heartlessness. The GOP has no interest in our future. The only interest that Republicans care about is the interest earned on their bank accounts that have been filled up by the wealthy and the profit-over-people corporations that they defend. Medicare has been a necessary program since its creation and if any Republican tries to con you into believing that it is socialism, remember this. Theodore Roosevelt supported universal health care and Ronald Reagan SAVED Medicare 20 years after he denounced it in the 1960′s. Even members of Congress have government insurance, which is basically Medicare. If government health care is good enough for two giants of the Republican Party and for current Republican members of Congress, it’s good enough for every single American. What we should really be saying is “Keep your dirty Republican hands off my Medicare!”