We support Council’s vote

We support Council’s vote
(Graphic/Jessica Kim)

To the editor:

On March 12, at its legislative meeting, City Council joined more than 130 localities across the United States to adopt a resolution supporting national, improved Medicare for All. The resolution affirms the City of Alexandria’s support for a single-payer healthcare system and urges Congress to adopt comprehensive universal health coverage.

Why is this important to us? One of us is a volunteer counselor in the Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program, i.e., Medicare counseling. The other is a nurse and an advocate for cancer screening, research and treatments. We both work with people who are stuck battling very confusing payment schemes with all the Medicare parts and/or limited networks and denials of coverage, which can be particularly burdensome.

Too many Medicare beneficiaries who have severe or chronic diseases have too much income to qualify for financial assistance, but after paying for housing and food, not enough for costly prescriptions and other medical treatments. To be eligible for Medicaid in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a single person aged 65 or older can have no more than $2,000 in assets; a couple is allowed $3,000. Income is limited to 80% of the Federal Poverty Level, which is $12,048 a year for a single person and $16,352 for a couple.

In most jurisdictions, those under 65 and eligible for Medicare due to disability are limited to Medicare Advantage plans, which restrict access to providers and too often delay or deny care. In Virginia, those same folks can now purchase a Medigap – Medicare Supplement – Plan but are limited to one plan with fewer benefits than the eight plans available to those over 65.

As currently designed, Medicare does not cover dental, hearing or vision services, all of which are vital to living a healthy life. Such benefits are essential to everyone, but can be particularly critical to those with severe health conditions. For example, some cancer therapies can result in marked deterioration of dental health, visual toxicities and even loss of hearing.

Also, to the surprise and dismay of many who need it, Medicare does not cover long-term care. This lack of coverage will likely impact us all as the needs of our aging population go unaddressed in the coming decades.

People with health insurance from their employers may need to realize how vulnerable they are to losing coverage and a lack of continuity of care. Marketplace plans for 2024 have a maximum out-of-pocket of $9,450 for an individual and $18,900 for a family. How many of us could pay that amount yearly if a family member confronted a long-term illness? All health insurance plans have deductibles and coinsurance that can make getting needed care unaffordable. Even if coinsurance is “only” 20%, that is still a lot of money.

The Medicare for All bills in Congress, House of Representatives 3421 and Senate 1655, would cover all necessary health care without cost sharing at the point of service. The State-Based Universal Health Care, H.R. 6270, bill would provide a mechanism for states and regions to choose to provide this type of coverage. Such legislation would protect many people in our Commonwealth who, even with health insurance, are one accident or serious illness away from bankruptcy. Access to health care is critical. Much like the fire department, we need it to be there when we need it! We can do better.

We applaud Alexandria City Council’s support of the Resolution.

-Cedar Dvorin, MSW, Alexandria;

Caroline Corum, RN, BSN, Arlington