Opinion: Sanders’ Medicare plan may be radical, but the need to maintain Medicare isn’t

Andrew Ohl is a junior history major and columnist for The Kent Stater. 

Andrew Ohl Kent State College Democrats

Some numbers: As of 2013, and according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, there are 55.3 million Medicare beneficiaries in the United States. For fiscal year 2015, Medicare takes up $541 billion in the federal budget, as per the Congressional Budget Office. By 2030, the number of Medicare beneficiaries is expected to rise to 80 million as a result of the aging “baby boomer” generation, and by 2035 Medicare spending is projected to move from 3.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product to 5.4 percent of GDP, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Much has been made of the increasing costs of Medicare and many other health care and welfare programs in recent years. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has repeatedly advocated for a vast expansion of Medicare. This would ultimately culminate in the creation of a single-payer system in which the government would cover the costs of all necessary health care.

Sanders’s Medicare proposal has come under fire recently, for it has been described as being politically unfeasible, prone to disrupting the advances of the still-new Affordable Care Act. The means for funding this Medicare expansion have been only vaguely articulated at best. Thus, barely five years after the fiery trial that was the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we find ourselves again debating the government’s role in health care and what it means to protect the weak and vulnerable in our society.

Responsibility for increased Medicare costs must not be laid at the feet of the weaker party, of the Medicare beneficiaries — 17 percent of which live below poverty — but of those responsible for protecting these people. Responsibility lies with the government that has a moral imperative to continue providing Medicare. Responsibility lies with the participators of an economic system that profits off of the ill and forces the citizens of this country alone in 2014 to spend $374 billion on medicine. It is a system that values a well-functioning human being only insofar as it helps prop up the price tag on painkillers.

In a country where the GDP currently stands at over $16 trillion, we possess the resourcefulness to stand our ground and continue providing Medicare to those who receive it, if not necessarily expand it greatly. Sanders’ vision may turn out to be unrealistic. It is his and the Democratic Party’s belief, however, in Medicare’s invaluable service that must necessarily stand in the way of well-meaning but misguided thinking on fiscal “responsibility.” Surely charity toward the vulnerable is not so radical to oppose.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Kent State College Democrats as an organization.

Andrew Ohl is a member of Kent State College Democrats.