Medicare benefits require expansion

Just when it appears that all news from Washington is bleak, something happens to restore a little confidence in the government.

The United States Senate voted Tuesday to approve legislation designed to protect the elderly from financial ruin resulting from enormously high medical bills. One provision of the catastrophic health insurance bill puts a ceiling of $1,700 on the amount of money to be paid by the recipient. In addition, the bill would allow the added expense of some prescription drugs to be included as part of the Medicare insurance program.

This obviously comes as a great relief to many of the nation’s elderly and retirees—most of whom are on fixed incomes. Now, the fear of a medical catastrophy, which could wipe out both an existing health insurance plan and a savings account, is no longer so great.

The bill also covers such things as nursing home care. Someone whose spouse requires the prolonged care only a nursing home can provide, is also not faced with the intolerable choice of facing either the loss of a spouse or financial ruin.

This legislation comes not a moment too soon. As the cost of health-related services continues to mount, it becomes a serious dilemma for a growing portion of this country’s population. Because even a short (10-25 days) stay in the hospital can cost tens of thousands of dollars, the new legislation must appear as a godsend to many.

Current Medicare benefits are grossly inadequate. As commercials for Medicare supplements bombard the airwaves, the issue only becomes confused as people try to plan for a medically secure future. However, with some appropriate legislation, Medicare alone will be sufficient to ensure that security.

In this time of budget cuts, a huge national deficit and the elimination of many social services, the bill very well could have been struck down. The lives of the 31 million Medicare recipients easily outweighs the monetary cost. Access to today’s medical technology should no longer be restricted only to those who can afford it. What a relief the Senate agrees.