Summary: Mr. Barkan, a resolute and articulate advocate for single payer / Medicare for All, warns us about privatization of Medicare via Medicare Advantage. We must unite to battle the corporate takeover of our premier public insurance program.
How Medicare Advantage Could Kill Medicare
May 17, 2023
By Ady Barkan
Today, Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Pramila Jayapal, and Representative Debbie Dinged introduced the Medicare for All Act in the Senate and House.
In 2019, The House of Representatives announced that it would hold its first-ever hearing on the Medicare for All Act. I was the first witness in the overflowing Rules Committee room. I spoke through my computer; paralyzed by ALS at age 35, I embodied the reality that we all will need health care, no matter how lucky and privileged we feel.
I had become a prominent champion for universal health care, particularly for strengthening and expanding Medicare. But I am now embarrassed to admit that I actually didn’t understand the massive changes that had been happening to the Medicare system. For more than two decades, health insurance companies have been privatizing our cherished Medicare program. Now, I’m worried that once they have it we may never get it back.
The Medicare Advantage program was created with the promise that the private sector could reduce costs by better managing care. But, as The New York Times reported in October – which is when I finally understood the scale and gravity of this problem – the hunger of health insurance corporations for profits that these plans supply has been insatiable. The program is more costly than traditional Medicare, not more efficient.
Health insurance companies and private-equity firms are buying up primary care as fast as they can and extracting profit however they can.
As more people enroll in Medicare Advantage, and fewer in traditional Medicare, there may be less political will to improve traditional Medicare. The future of health care in this country might in fact be Medicare Advantage for All.
There is a better way. American voters from across the political spectrum support Medicare and Medicare for All. Generations of activists and leaders have pursued this same vision. But to get there, we will need to stop the corporate takeover of Medicare.
Comment by Don McCanne
The opportunity to enact and implement a universal, comprehensive, affordable, high quality, equitable health care program – an Improved Medicare for All – is rapidly slipping away from us, and Ady Barkan explains why. You should read his full article in the Nation and share it with others.
Then we should act on it. New legislation for Medicare for All has been introduced this week in both the House and the Senate. Clearly the time calls for political activism. That doesn’t mean that we leave it to the politicians. It has to be the work of the people. We all have to join together to make it happen. The alternative is exposure to suffering, misery, bankruptcy, and even death.