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How many candidates ready to end Medicare?

Who knows, but Jeb Bush is simply following orders from his wealthy benefactors when he announced the other day that the U.S. ought to phase out Medicare.  Medicare is the federal program established in 1965 that provides health insurance to Americans once they’re 65 years of age and that has and continues to keep senior Americans from the cost of medical services that would surely bankrupt and send them into poverty without it.

While he says that “we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits, we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something.”  Once tinkering with Medicare gets underway, one wonders how long the current recipients would remain harmless while those to reach 65 later would most likely be at the mercy of private insurance companies with a return to the way things were before Medicare: Exorbitantly high premiums with the right of private insurers to withhold coverage for pre-existing conditions and a direct path to an early death for those who cannot pay the price.

The way this could take place is by the rich putting up the big bucks to elect a Jeb Bush—or several other GOP hopefuls—who agree with the end to Medicare.  The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and many others have had the limits on campaign spending removed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.  Thereby, they can spend any amount necessary to get their man elected, who, due to promises for big campaign chest money will return favors and do what they were asked to do: In this case, place Medicare into terminally ill status.

Bush, and several other GOP contenders, the nominee selected at the 2016 Republican nominating convention, will argue that major overhauls of Medicare are necessary because of rising spending.  However, the latest report on the fiscal health of the program, which Medicare trustees issued in July, did not communicate such a sense of urgency.  The trustees report that the part of Medicare that pays for hospital care and related services will remain solvent until 2030 even as more and more retiring Baby Boomers sign up.  Further, they predict that Medicare costs will rise more slowly than previously believed. In other words, left alone without the tinkering factor, Medicare will continue to do well for America’s seniors.

Another fact on Medicare that has come to light is a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that reports mortality rates among Medicare patients fell 16 percent from 1999 to 2013.  Researchers based the study on records from more than 68 million Medicare patients. The improvements are due to hospital and staff effectiveness but also in a major way due to Medicare recipients receiving timely care.

Would a majority of Americans fall for an “overhaul” of Medicare that’s really all about burying it so deep in limitations it cannot be found to work for tens of millions of older Americans?  Jeb Bush and others of similar thinking apparently do not care as long as the big money interests, the notorious one percent, can pay fewer taxes or no taxes at all.  Meanwhile, Jeb Bush and his family have made billions by their political connections and don’t seem to care what happens to those Americans on Main Street.  Vote Bush into the presidency, then sit back, without the ability to pay for medical services, and wait for your early call to the Pearly Gates.

Meanwhile, there are candidates among the 17 Republicans declared who have a reputation for looking after the welfare of U.S. citizens.  One of those is John Kasich, governor of Ohio and a former member of Congress.  Kasich can be tough but he’s also fair.  In Ohio he has stood by to protect Medicaid, embraced Common Core educational standards and has been willing to consider a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  Further, he has been at least tolerant of same-sex marriage and open-minded on abortion. Experience in government work has included a successful effort to balance the budget as chairman of the House Budget Committee when Bill Clinton was president and can deal with Democrats. Ohio under his leadership has realized recovery from the recession to realize a $2 billion surplus for Ohio during his tenure as governor there.  This guy can get things done for all Americans, including those whose very existence nowadays, the nation’s elderly, who depend solely on Medicare and Social Security.

(Gene H. McIntyre’s column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)