Current and future beneficiaries will gather at the office of Dr. Marta Hampton (635 St. Andrews Blvd. in Charleston) at 12 noon for a party that will include cake.
A presentation on Medicare’s expansion to a single-payer program for everyone begins at 6:30 that evening at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital (1st Floor, Room Mall #1 at 2095 Henry Tecklenburg Dr. in Charleston).
Sponsors of the events are Physicians for a National Health Program, the Charleston League of Women Voters and South Carolina’s AFL-CIO. The evening event is also a bimonthly meeting of the state PNHP affiliate Healthcare for All-South Carolina.
“America is the richest country in the world, but we’re the only industrialized nation that doesn’t provide health care for all of its citizens,” says David Ball, South Carolina’s national liaison to PNHP.
“Medicare has proven itself to be an effective, cost-efficient avenue to healthcare. If it’s been so effective for seniors and persons with disabilities, then it’s time we extend the benefits of this proven system to everyone.”
The 12 noon event at Dr. Hampton’s office will also be attended by patients who can offer details of their own relevant experiences – dealing with insurance companies, and comparing recent private insurance coverage to current Medicare coverage.
While some assume that healthcare providers would oppose such a plan, that’s certainly not the case for Hampton. “I support single-payer as a provider because it offers a simplified method to equitable and affordable healthcare for all.”
The 6:30 p.m. event, which includes refreshments, will offer a “Why Obamacare Isn’t Enough” presentation from Ball. The occasion will also serve as the bimonthly meeting of Healthcare for All-South Carolina, of which Ball is co-founder, and which became the state chapter of PHNP in 2012.
A recommended improvement to the Affordable Care Act calls for a Medicare-resembling, non-profit health insurance plan for all Americans that would eliminate many overhead costs, and for both patients and providers. Single payer also promotes preventive care.
A recent economic evaluation of the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act (H.R. 676), which has been introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to every congressional session since 2004, finds that $570 billion could be saved by use of this particular single-payer plan.
PNHP supports Conyers’ bill, Ball says.
“A simplified single-payer plan would both improve accessibility to healthcare and dramatically reduce its costs,” Ball emphasizes. “It could provide liberal benefits through conservative spending.”
The local League of Women Voters is eager to co-sponsor the “birthday” celebration, too, and for promotion of accessible healthcare. "Medicare has worked for all these years because it is available to all seniors,” says Julie Hussey, president of Charleston’s LWV. “It is time to learn from what works.”
While labor unions primarily represent the interests of workers, the South Carolina AFL-CIO supports single payer for the benefit of employers, too, says Erin McKee, interim president.
“A ‘Medicare for all’ program would benefit workers and their companies alike,” McKee says, “by reducing costs for practically everyone.”
The total annual cost of insured healthcare for a family of four averages $22,030, according to the 2013 Milliman Medical Index. The employee pays $5,544 in payroll deductions and another $3,600 in out-of-pocket medical expenses, while the employer pays $12,886 for the employee’s insurance.
While Medicare serves 821,000 in South Carolina, another 721,000 in the state remain without any healthcare plan.
Even if the state legislature had opted-in for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, about 442,000 in the Palmetto State would still be without any type of medical insurance.
Approximately 45,000 Americans die every year not from diseases or illnesses, but from lack of insurance that would otherwise allow them to be treated for those conditions.