Under the multiple policies of Medicare, there is a range of critical perspectives on whether some of these policies should be changed. Among the policies, the eligibility age and privatization of Medicare seems to be the most popular topics in debate.
Raising Eligibility Age
Medicare was formed in 1965 due to limited availability of private health care. At the same time the retirement age was 65, while the life expectancy was 65 as well. With both of those ideas in mind we must take both retirement age and life expectancy into consideration today as we discuss possible reforms for Medicare. Medicare continues to assist those over 65 today by providing basic health care to them; it greatly reduces the burden of payment on those who are already living on a limited budget due to retirement.
Now, life expectancy has dramatically increased. According to the Washington Post, Life expectancy increased from 78 years in 2008 to 78.2 years in 2009. Such an increase shows the direct relationship between improved technology and life expectancy. Technology will continue to advance in the future, in turn allowing the life expectancy to rise as well. It would only make sense to increase the age requirement for health care with that in mind.
In order to increase the age requirement it would be need to be done on a gradual scale. This means that every year, or two, the age requirement would rise. The most suitable rate would most likely be a year. For example, if the plan were to commence in 2013 then the age requirement would raise to 66, rather than 65. However, those already under Medicare at the age of 65 as the 2013 year began, would not be affected by the change in age. Society would evolve to cope with the increased age.
Better pharmaceuticals and overall medical treatment has allowed for healthier people as they get older, thus working for a longer time is not necessarily a burden. Many people over the age of 65 may currently be employed and have the ability to assume the healthcare of their employers.
Society must adapt to the changes which it endures. If life expectancy and retirement age have both increased, then the age requirement for Medicare should do the same. Both factors which directed the age requirement at the origin of Medicare are no longer the same. We must continue to help those who need it, while taking into consideration the national debt.
America can no longer afford to invest over 15% of the GDP on healthcare. If other countries have the ability to successfully provide healthcare to citizens at a much lower rate, America must explore the options available to the transformation of Medicare.
About half of all healthcare in the United States is provided by the private sector, while the other half is provided by the government through Medicare, Medicaid and other healthcare programs. Medicare provides healthcare for everyone over the age of 65 regardless of whether they can pay for healthcare or not.
People who pay for their own healthcare will be much more sensitive to prices than those for whom it is free. They will become more informed about procedures and facilities and make better choices, because they have to pay for it themselves. Instead of insisting on every procedure and charging the government more money, they will research medical care and save themselves money.
People who pay for their own care will be more involved. They will try to understand what the doctor is saying, and will be much more likely to follow their doctor’s instructions or prescriptions, rather than simply reasoning that they don’t have to do whatever their doctor said because they can just go back again later. Private healthcare gives the patients more of a choice in where they go, who they see and what procedures they have, because the government isn’t telling them exactly what they must do.
Insurance in most areas, like car and house insurance, generally covers only expenses that are “catastrophic”, far beyond an individual’s ability to pay. Medical insurance should be the same way and when it is, it is affordable to most people. Those people who can’t afford healthcare still get care, because many free clinics, both private and public, exist, and the EMTALA Act of 1986 requires healthcare facilities to pay for care for people who comes to the emergency room and can’t pay for it. No one is ever turned away from an emergency room, and as a result they are overused by people who don’t have insurance and don’t want to pay the bill for a doctor’s appointment.
Many people argue that without government healthcare, no one would ever get preventative treatments, like immunizations, because they wouldn’t want to pay, or simply wouldn’t think to do so. However, public and private entities such as governments, hospitals, clinics, and even schools educate the public on preventive care and as a result they would be much more likely to get their shots. People must understand that they are responsible for their own healthcare.
When people don’t pay for their own medical care, they go to the doctor for every little complaint and don’t worry about how much time or money it costs others. If people don’t pay for their own medical care, they don’t have any qualms about going to the doctor to get a note just to get off of work. Waiting lists lengthen and soon no one can get in to see the doctors at all. Britain has had universal healthcare for half a century and they are currently downsizing the system because they can’t afford it. In some cases, people who need procedures or specialized treatment have to wait months to get what they need if they can get it at all. Some care is completely denied in the British system. Canadians who need medical procedures sometimes come to the United States rather than wait for months in Canada.
The main reason for privatizing healthcare, though, is that the government can’t afford to pay for healthcare. Medicare and Medicaid are already breaking the bank, and Medicare costs more than Social Security per year. The government has little money as it is and there is no way they could support a universal healthcare system without diving even deeper into debt.