I search the toilet paper aisle. One ply or two? Scented? How do costs compare? On to the grocery’s cracker aisle. Whole wheat? Herb flavored? I spend five minutes studying the nutritional information on the boxes. These are simple choices compared to buying a cell phone and computer, or deciding how to invest my pension. In fact, modern living demands so many decisions that I sometimes throw up my hands in frustration, postpone making them, and miss the deadline.
When my husband and I went on Medicare, we spent hours researching supplemental health insurance companies. Next we studied options for Medicare, Plan D. Since we enrolled in Plan D, the co-pay has increased drastically, and when my medication needs changed, the company wouldn’t cover much of the new prescription’s cost. So we’re again on the internet researching our options.
Now Republicans want to replace Medicare with a voucher plan. The G.O.P. platform says it wants to “empower millions of seniors to control their personal health care decisions.” Hey, Republicans, seniors find empowerment through freedom from fear that an illness or injury will wipe out our savings. We find empowerment when we have enough financial security to engage in activities that energize us. Those activities include volunteering in our communities’ schools, hospitals, shelters, and churches.
A voucher plan doesn’t empower America’s senior citizens as much as it forces us to spend precious time making yet one more complicated decision. Stories abound of unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of vulnerable seniors. TV ads, mailings, and phone calls will promise us anything to get our business. (At the same time Romney plans to eliminate the Consumer Protection Agency.) What if I choose an insurer that quits financing the care I need? I’m left feeling—certainly not empowered.
Under a voucher system wealthy individuals can hire professionals to study the options, pay lawyers to apply pressure if an insurer doesn’t come through. But most Americans have neither the time nor skills for weeding through contracts where one whereas follows another. I’ve been told that changes in Medicare won’t affect me. As if I’m so self-centered that I don’t care how my adult children will fare when they’re my age.
When extensive research is necessary and papers are to be signed in triplicate, when terms of agreement are written in legalese, thanks, Mr. Romney, but having the choice does not leave me feeling empowered.