Medicare for All wouldn’t be today’s Medicare

May 4, 2019

Medicare for all?

That catchphrase has entered American politics and now likely is to be debated for the next year and a half. It is likely to mean different things to different people.

But let us begin by examining how Medicare works now.

Medicare is the basic government program for persons 65 and older. It also covers some younger people with certain diseases, such as end-stage kidney failure and Lou Gehrig’s Disease. All told about 58 million people are in Medicare.

Medicaid, the government program that covers people with low incomes, involves 74 million people.

Medicare is completely federal. Your benefits are the same whether you live in Alabama, Connecticut or Illinois.

Medicaid is state-administered. Different states might pay differently for different procedures. Illinois is notorious for being both a low-pay and a slow-pay state.

Medicare, also, does not pay everything. It pays, on average, about half of the medical expenses for seniors, according to one estimate. Whole ranges of things, such as dentures, glasses and hearing aids are not covered. Everyone should wisely purchase a private Medicare supplement.

Supplement plans are regulated by the government. You have a choice of what is covered. Yet, the plans all provide the same types of coverage. Plan A for one carrier is the same as Plan A for someone else. The government also does its best to encourage you to purchase drug coverage.

Today’s Medicare really is a mix of public and private benefits for most Americans.

Is there government waste that could be pruned away? Absolutely. Recipients are deluged with paperwork.

Meanwhile, the Medicare Trust Fund is scheduled to go broke in 2026 — not all that far away. That doesn’t mean Medicare will then end. It does mean Medicare dollars likely will be chewed out of other areas of the budget.

So Medicare for All is unlikely to be what Medicare is today.