Dennis Potvin - Tennessee Democrat

Medicare for Young and Old

Medicare should be for young and old alike. Children cannot be expected to provide for their own health coverage, and elders have earned health care to be a right and not a privilege. With national healthcare light years away, it’s time to focus on a way that our youth (under the age of 22) and our elders over 65 may both rest easy knowing that they will be taken care of.

This is a program that costs money and a lot of it. But it’s also a program that saves money. Workers with employer-provided insurance typically have three options for coverage – Employee Only, Employee and Spouse, and Employee and Family. If children under 22 are already covered in every household, then this means that workers may select Employee Only or Employee and Spouse as their coverage, which is significantly cheaper. This hits the bottom line in every household, as your monthly cost to insure drops substantially. This savings will more than offset the tax dollars it will take to fund this initiative.

Taking on a trillion-dollar health care industry is a daunting task, and it won’t happen overnight. Tennessee offers a program of Medicaid called Tenncare to very select groups with limited financial resources including children and expectant mothers. It is a program heavy on restrictions, yet had $268 million in unspent reserves in 2015 (according to the 2017 state budget). With money sitting in the bank and a $64 million increase allotted in the 2017 budget, Tenncare needs to open its arms and embrace everyone who can prove residency in Tennessee and who is under the age of 22. Pundits cite the fact that people will move across the border solely to take advantage of the program. I say that this is the reason it needs adoption nationwide.

Currently, Kentucky offers Meridian, as does Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. Meridian Medicaid offers options for families below the poverty line of income until their income rises above that level. Meridian is closer to true Medicare than is Tenncare.

Between 22 and 65, the work career for most Americans, health care is the responsibility of the individual. This group of individuals will more than sustain our health care industry. But we, as a state, need to ensure that coverage is a right for those under 22 and over 65. Meridian Medicaid provides one step towards that solution.

Some high-profile Democratic leaders advocate for Medicare for All. I don’t believe that it will ever happen in this country. But Medicare for Young and Old is a reasonable compromise.

© 2017 Dennis Potvin
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