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Q&A: A Question About SICKO

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Q I’ve been reading your series on Michael Moore’s movie SiCKO and was wondering: is Medicare the same as national health insurance? My mother and father are covered under Medicare and they seem to get good care from their doctor.

A Medicare started out as an excellent system when Lyndon Johnson signed it into law in the 1960s. Unfortunately, over the years, Congress has steadily eroded its benefits and has placed an increased financial burden on the patient.

Your parents would have to purchase a Medicare supplement policy from a private insurance company to cover the numerous expenses that Medicare misses. Many of these policies deny needed benefits, so in addition to paying for the policy, your parents may find themselves in a veritable blizzard of bills from doctors and hospitals who simply refuse to accept the very low rates that Medicare now pays them.

Certainly Medicare is better than no health insurance at all, but by placing so much burden on the patient, it’s a deeply flawed system and a far cry from single-payer, government-funded universal health care where the patient is totally freed from financial involvement.

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