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What About Medicare? 

Editor:

We read with interest about Assemblyman Wood's continuing efforts to find remedies for the ongoing abuses to our dysfunctional healthcare non-system (NCJ Daily, March 2). A.B. 1537 is the newest example as it tries to reign in the horrendous profiteering in privately run nursing homes in California. 

 However, as Tony Chicotel, attorney for the nonprofit advocacy group California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) observes, impact of the bill will be limited and without significance. Overwhelmingly, the explanation for this lies with skilled nursing facilities' (SNF) operators continuing to find ways to game the system. It's like putting fingers in the dike. As water seeks its own level, so does the never-satisfied thirst for profit continue to find ways to feed itself. In the realm of health care, this runs 180 degrees counter to public need.

 Chicotel says, "government is a terrible consumer of long-term care" and, absent some kind of seismic reform, we are stuck with "the status quo." Not so: For 58 years, Medicare has been a public health safety net for elders and the disabled. Medicare is a revered and valued government program that spends some 98 percent of its funds for patient care.

 When it is improved (adding vision, dental, hearing and long-term care, for example) and expanded to every resident in California, it would cure the SNF abuses simply by streamlining administrative costs and eliminating profiteering. There's your seismic reform, with efficiency that far exceeds that of any for-profit entity.

 The California Nurses Association with Assemblyman Ash Kalra have introduced A.B. 1690 to develop a program designed to bring equitable, accessible, guaranteed, high-quality healthcare service to all Californians. Given Dr. Wood's ongoing search for healthcare justice and his avowed support for single-payer, universal healthcare in the past, we look forward to his enthusiastic support for this bill.

 Patty Harvey, Willow Creek

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