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Wayne's Words: Anniversary of Medicare

8/3/2017, midnight
By Wayne Horne – whorne@thetimesweekly.com Healthcare is a major topic in Washington and around the country. This week marks the ...

By Wayne Horne – whorne@thetimesweekly.com

Healthcare is a major topic in Washington and around the country. This week marks the 51st anniversary of Medicare. Approximately 19 million people ages 65 and over became eligible to enroll in Medicare in 1966. It provides hospital and medical insurance for those eligible Americans age 65 or older. The program is entirely funded through the federal government and partially paid for by payroll taxes.

Ironically, rates for individual health insurance for people under age 65 and purchased through the government marketplace website are projected to increase by as much as 43 percent for 2018. Most people who receive coverage through marketplace insurance products are also receiving a government subsidy that reduces the premiums and out-of-pocket costs to “affordable” levels. At the present time those subsidies are available but there is no guarantee they will continue beyond 2018.

Most people are covered by employer plans where they work or government plans such as Medicare and the veterans’ health care system. Less than two percent of the country eligible for individual marketplace plans receive no subsidy when they buy health insurance plans.

Those who receive health insurance through employer plans will also see a rise in cost. Why? “Cost shifting.” It is a term that has been around almost since health insurance has been available. It simply means that if someone without medical coverage is treated and can’t pay for it, then the medical cost is shifted to those who can pay the bill. The more people without the ability to pay the bill, the greater the level of “cost shifting.”

The current national health care cost is about three trillion dollars. That’s what it costs. We all pay that cost one way or another. The problem is how do we, as a country, reduce that cost and share in a fair and equitable way to pay the expense. No alternative has been agreed upon to accomplish that goal. To date, we have the most expensive health care in the world and less than world class outcomes.

One last thing… the City of Joliet is a commemorative partner with the U.S.A. Vietnam War Commemoration. According to the website, the Secretary of Defense is empowered to conduct a program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. By presidential proclamation on May 25, 2012, the Commemoration extends from Memorial Day 2012 through Veterans Day 2025.

As part of the city’s commitment to the project, two events have been conducted this year. The first was the lighting of the 11 flag pavilions maintained by the city of Joliet. The U.S. Flag is flown from all the pavilions 24/7 and Joliet Fire Department personnel have the responsibility for flag maintenance at each of the flag locations. Flags of Valor was the second event. It honored 20 Illinois soldiers who gave their lives in recent Mideast conflicts.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, we are losing over 500 Vietnam veterans each day. Approximately seven million Vietnam era veterans are living today. Since 2013, the Vietnam War Commemoration’s History and Legacy Branch (H&L) has been conducting video-recorded oral history interviews to capture the memories of our Vietnam veterans.

The goal of the oral history project is to include all ranks, all services and all experiences. H&L will process and maintain the video-interviews and unedited footage of the interviews will be kept on file and shared with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

A Vietnam veteran who wants to participate in this project should email them at whs.pentagon.wso.mbx.vnwar50th-edu@mail.mil. A member of the H&L team will inform you if they will be traveling to your area to conduct interviews in the near future.

Stay tuned…