I be officially old

Today brings proof I’m old — I’m eligible for Medicare. At least initially, though, it seems like a good thing.

My wife (who was eligible earlier this year) and I aren’t on Medicare itself, opting to purchase a Medicare Advantage insurance policy. Even then, we will be paying more than $2,000 a month less than the private policy we purchased through the Obamacare marketplace. That’s right — $24,000 a year! Since January 1, 2020, health insurance has been our largest single expense, accounting for 28.7 percent of what we’ve spent.

This is just further proof that our healthcare system is broken. What we’ll be saving is roughly $5,000 more than the gross pay of someone making South Dakota’s minimum wage of $9.45 an hour — if they work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. Even if they get $15-$16 an hour, which appears to be the market rate minimum wage, health insurance would take some three-quarters of their gross pay. Again, that’s working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.

Granted, this doesn’t take into account any age-based rates, both spouses working or the outside chance an employer offers its low-wage employees a health plan at a reduced rate. Yet even then, how do we expect someone — or more importantly, someone with children — to pay for health care? The lack of health insurance certainly contributes to a lack of preventive medical care, which, in the long run, is far less expensive than dealing with conditions after they’ve developed.

The size and power of health insurers mean we’ll never see national health care (or to use the conservative pejorative, “socialized medicine”). Likewise, it makes “Medicare for All” a pipe dream.

I’ve always thought medical care was essential for the “right to life” the right harps about or to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” President Franklin Roosevelt recognized this in his 1944 State of the Union address, saying a “second Bill of Rights” included “The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.” Even though the Affordable Care Act reduced the numbers, 30 million Americans under the age of 65 lacked health insurance in mid-2020. It may well have increased as the economic impact of COVID-19 worsened.

Sadly, too many Americans will die of preventable or treatable illnesses before we recognize health care is a basic right.

[Healthcare] is not a consumer good, but rather a universal right[.]

Pope Francis, July 5, 2016

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