Remarks on Medicare's 43rd Birthday

30 July 2008

Hon F. Allen Boyd, Jr.
U.S. Congress, 2nd District, Florida

Charles R. Mathews, M.D.
Capital City Chapter
Physicians for a National Health Program

Our chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program welcomes this opportunity to commemorate and celebrate this anniversary of Medicare, signed into law 43 years ago. This monumental achievement changed health care in America irrevocably, for those Americans over 65. President Johnson told the country that “- - for the first time in the history of America, every senior citizen will be able to receive hospital care - - not as a ward of the state, not as a charity case, but as an insured patient.”

This very senior physician was seeing patients for some years before Medicare, and carry vivid, often painful memories of providing care for the uninsured and medically destitute, which, for the elderly, ended with the implementation of Medicare. For twelve years (1995-2007) I was a volunteer primary care provider at Neighborhood Health Services in Tallahassee, where we would see the full range of health problems among the medically indigent. In those clinics, we were seeing increasing numbers of patients who were not really poor, but who had lost their medical insurance coverage by changes in employment or whose coverage was inadequate, so they simply could no longer afford to pay for care in our privatized, fragmented system.

Mr. Boyd is aware of these problems, nearly fifty million uninsured nation-wide, nearly four million Floridians uninsured, and many more underinsured. We have a moral obligation to see that quality, accessible health care is made available to all Americans. It is a disgrace that this great republic ranks number 37 of all the nations of the world in providing health care to its citizens. It is a shame that over 110,000 preventable deaths occur every year in this country, because of our chaotic non-system of health care.

Single-payer, universal coverage for all is the only reasonable answer to our national health care crisis. Our country’s disorderly way of providing health care is not sustainable. The train wreck is not far ahead.

A comprehensive plan for all Americans should include medical, mental health and dental. How can we afford it? We are already paying enough to cover everyone. Total health care expenditures in this country exceed $2.1 trillion annually, which is more than $7,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. Our current system has 31% administrative costs, vs. 17% in Canada and about 4% for traditional Medicare.

How do we get there? The bills have been filed: In the House, HR 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act. We need our elected representatives to move our country forward, to provide equitable, accessible, quality health care to all its citizens. At this time, HR 676 has 91 House co-sponsors. We need Mr. Boyd’s help. We very much want to see his name on this bill. We look forward to having a new, enlightened president, and a supportive Congress. Health Care is a Human Right!

Charles R. Mathews, M.D.