Consumer Watchdog To Obama: Open Medicare To All Americans

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The nationally recognized Consumer Watchdog sent a letter today to President-elect Obama urging him to fulfill his campaign pledge to make health care affordable and available by allowing any American to join Medicare, regardless of age. The group warned Obama that a proposal pushed by health insurance companies to require all Americans to buy private health insurance policies "amounts only to a government-funded customer delivery system for the fragmented, wasteful private insurance market."

In the letter, Consumer Watchdog wrote:

"Patients, employers and the American economy simply cannot continue to pay so much more for health care and receive so much less than anywhere else in the world. Your campaign commitments to make health care affordable and available must not be undermined by those in the medical-insurance complex who seek to preserve their cash cows at the expense of the public."

Consumer Watchdog said that giving all Americans the option of joining Medicare would make health care more affordable and available because such a move would provide the broadest and cheapest sharing of risk while reducing private insurance company waste, fraud and profiteering that accounts for up to half of every dollar Americans spend on health care premiums.

Consumer Watchdog wrote President-elect Barack Obama that, "[t]he critical missing component in your commendable health care proposal is significant controls on health care costs and tough regulatory restrictions on the health insurance industry."

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The letter provides three critical recommendations for health care reform:

* The most efficient and cost-effective way to provide the "public option" to the private market that Obama promised during his campaign is to open Medicare to all Americans.

* Any new federal health care reforms should not preempt state laws and regulations; they should follow the model of existing federal law, which promotes a state-federal partnership.

* Obama should reject proposals to require consumers to purchase insurance from private companies, as he did during the campaign. The individual mandate is highly unfair and unaffordable in practice.

Of the requirement that all Americans must buy private insurance, Consumer Watchdog wrote:

"A mandatory purchase regime, particularly one without a true public option such as universal access to Medicare and without vigorous cost controls and guaranteed benefits, amounts only to a government-funded customer delivery system for the fragmented, wasteful private insurance market. It will not solve our nation's health care problems and will only encourage the industry to demand higher premiums and more taxpayer subsidies, while providing less health care.

"There is a big difference between universal participation in a cost-effective government program that protects us all (like Medicare) and being forced to buy an unregulated private product. A mandate may get us closer to universal insurance coverage, but we'll still be far from achieving universal health care. Why? Because the requirement will likely be for 'affordable,' bare-bones policies - the kind that comes with $5,000 deductibles, big co-pays and holes in coverage and benefits."

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