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Have any of you who are eligible for Medicare noticed any changes in the past few years? Perhaps you have bought into the new Medicare version that has been widely advertised called Medicare Advantage, (MA). Are you aware that MA is a wholly privatized system that no longer lets you use the public Medicare program as you once used it? Maybe your large business, State of Vermont health plans, public school health plans, or other large employers have automatically switched you over to a MA plan without you having any say in the decision if you are over 65 years old and retired?

And just maybe you haven’t noticed that you are now under ONECARE VT, an Accountable Care Organization (ACO)? Or if you are employed by a smaller employer, are self-employed or completely retired and whether or not you are receiving retiree benefits, or Medicaid, your bills are now being paid not by your insurance company to whom you make payments, but rather by what is called a (DCE) Direct Contracting Entity). Due to a great deal of public criticism about turning our healthcare system over to greedy Wall Street contractors and ACO’s, CMMI is changing the name to REACH without substantial changes. Taxpayers and private citizens paying premiums are now supporting private insurance companies, hospitals and Wall Street contractors as our government system crumbles and providers are being dictated to by economists.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently said it wants all traditional Medicare beneficiaries in “value-based” programs by 2030, whatever that means. Under Obamacare, Congress has given up oversight of CMS to a newly formed branch of CMS called the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) which is okaying this privatized system without any need for Congressional oversight.

Is this what we as Vermonters and Americans want to happen? Is it truly an “innovation” we want to see? Many of us would like to see a return to a totally public system but improve it to include dental, hearing and vision care. Then we could gradually decrease the age of eligibility to 50 and lower it more to cover all Americans by raising the cap on those who pay into the federal tax system.

An NPR recent podcast on health care reform included an aphorism by a former president of PNHP who used the phrase “USA, Universal, Simple and Affordable.”

If you would like to learn more about how our traditional government run and controlled Medicare system is slowly becoming entirely a private run entity with no government controls at all, you may want to join a Zoom meeting on either May 10 or June 6. These two informational meetings are being sponsored by the Community of Vermont Elders (COVE) and the Vermont Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (VTPNHP). Please contact either of these organizations or check your Front Page Forum (FPF) or town events column for the times and links. There will also be time for questions. You may also contact the registration link at “We’re All In This Together” at . You then may want to contact our Congressional delegation and ask them what is going on and what they plan to do about it. This may also affect your decisions in the upcoming Primary and November elections.

Mary Alice Bisbee is a retired hospital and nursing home social worker now living in Montpelier. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.