Shall we Privatize Medicare?


At the point, I simply do not know what to say about the budget debate – but this much is certain: it’s not about money so much as it is ideology! That being said, let’s wade right into the debate about money, ideology, social programs, and specifically medical costs. How in the world can anyone expect to cut medical costs when government leaders refuse to deal with the 500-lb gorilla in the room? “Which gorilla?” you may well wonder.

How about the vaunted entrepreneurial, privatizing nonsense that Congress keeps resurrecting despite almost 20 years of proof that it does not work, at least not in health care (or, as far as I can see, in any essential service – fire, police, armed services). And the very thought of Congress privatizing Medicare  — the Republican’s latest proposal – is based on even more than the usual fallacious assumptions. First and foremost, it assumes any rational insurer wants to cover the highest risk population for any price. Second, it assumes any insurer would insure a high-risk population for $15,000/year – less than they charge low-risk people. Third, it takes no account of the differences among those covered by Medicare – e.g., between those who are 65 and those who are 85 – but promises $15,000/year for everyone. And privatization in health care DOES NOT WORK! What part of “does not work” do the Republicans not understand?

We have the only “privatized” health care in the world (for those not on Medicare or Medicaid) and it costs more than any of the so-called socialized systems anywhere else in the world. Stop. Full period. AND NO ONE DISPUTES THIS–NOT REPUBLICANS OR DEMOCRATS.

In case you need more proof that the profit motive does not cut costs, consider the outrageous increase KV Pharmaceuticals imposed on 17P, a drug long used and frequently mixed by various pharmacies to prevent preterm labor. KV Pharmaceuticals purchased the exclusive right to sell 17P under the name Makena for 7 years after receiving Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Prior to FDA approval, compounding pharmacies had been producing progesterone treatments at a cost of about $10 to $20 per dose. KV priced Makena at $1,500 per dose, and, as women require approximately 20 doses per pregnancy, the total cost soared from $200 to an astounding $30,000 per pregnancy. Only after an outcry from citizens and the medical community did the FDA make a rare decision to allow compounding pharmacies to continue to manufacture 17P. So last month, KV released its price adjustment for Makena: the new price will be $690 per injection, or $8,280 per pregnancy. What a bargain! We now get to pay $8,280 for what used to cost $200!

So before we even start debating privatizing Medicare, maybe we’d better look at ways we can control greed in a “privatized” system… or maybe the goal really is to price the poor and the old out of the system altogether. Let them die and decrease the excess population.

Maternity Advocates Challenge High Cost of Preterm Birth Drug. Accessed April 11, 2011.

The views and opinions expressed by Perspectives contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal. These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.


  • Neither political party has ever tried to reduce the costs of health care..til now. Like it or not, we live in a capitalistic society. There is nothing in the Constitution that mandates government control of health care. I do home health. I’ve seen so much waste and abuse of the system by people it makes me sick..and these are the 47% who pay no taxes at all. 10% of people pay 80% of the taxes..those are the “rich” you scorn. Health care needs a change, but not a socialist one.

  • This IS a class war: the rich and selfish wanting to keep all their riches while benefiting from the taxes paid by the middleclass – all of whom are going to have to pay more to keep the rich, rich (and getting richer)…and god help the poor!

  • There is more than enough PROOF that what we are presently doing does not work. Reform did not go far enough. Now that nearly everyone’s health insurance rates have risen, the deductible has grown, when will we get it our present system is so flawed the only way to fix it is to start at a different place…nurses where are you? Originally insurance was created by medicine to make sure physicians were paid. Time to start over.

  • The goal of the system is to reduce the population .Control and poison the food, control the cost and distribution of the healthcare , control the rights that you take for granted. Crisis by design.

  • Anyone who is not hot under the collar is not paying attention. We should be outraged, and may folk are

  • The Republicans do not care if it doesn’t work. Its not their problem that we are the only nation in the industrialized world whose citizens go bankrupt and lose everything because of medical bills. They believe in pure capitalism: more money for the wealthy, and the hell with anyone who stands in their way. It sickens me to think that money is more important to someone that another human being’s well being!

  • …Are you a little hot under the collar Dr. Curtin?

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