Several years ago, 62-year-old Michael Kaufman, a disabled resident of Bovina, New York, accidently drilled through one of his fingers. He quickly went to the closest Emergency Room where the wound was treated and bandaged. He thought this was all that he needed to do; unfortunately, the next morning, he noticed red streaks traveling up his arm — a sign of possible blood poisoning — so he returned to the local ER where medical staff immediately inserted an IV of antibiotics and suggested that he go to a bigger hospital 50 miles away to see a hand specialist, which he did.
Shortly thereafter, the bills started to arrive, and Kaufman found himself saddled with $600 in charges: a $200 co-pay for each of the three ER visits. Lest you think Kaufman was uninsured, he was not. He was — and still is — on Medicare, a federally supported health insurance plan provided to the 56 million Americans who receive Social Security Disability or Retirement benefits. Kaufman relies on this insurance to pay for the majority of his medical needs.
“I worked for 40 years and had at least a few years of middle-income earnings,” Kaufman told Truthout. “I cared about my work and was hoping to do more of it, but life sets limits. Things happen. I had to leave work much earlier than I planned, but at least there was a backstop. I’ve been on Disability since 2012 and right now I probably spend an hour or two a week dealing with charges, bills. There’s a lot of turnover in medical offices, and records disappear. It’s gotten harder and harder to deal with the stress of it. So much depends on having a good memory and keeping good records, but memory diminishes with age.”
Despite his obvious frustration with the current health care system, Kaufman makes two things clear: He values Medicare and is adamant about protecting it. He also wants to see it expanded, not cut. “Medicare is a step in the right direction but it is inadequate,” he continues. Part A…