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Adele Elliott: Boom

 

Adele Elliott

 

We baby boomers have had reasons to be slightly arrogant. For a long time it seemed that the world was spinning beneath our feet. We were like the ballerina in a music box, twirling in front of a mirror that reflected only us. TV commercials, movies -- even the introduction of fast food "restaurants" -- were there to beguile our unsophisticated little minds into the mesmerizing world of consumerism. And it worked. We pleaded with our parents for Barbie dolls with unlimited wardrobes, and over-priced toys with a Disney hook. We were princesses and princes, surrounded by magic. 

 

Pity our poor parents, trying to grant our every wish. They were still shell-shocked from the horrors of World War II. All they wanted was a happy home. They would have done anything to protect us and give us the peaceful lives that they did not have. Boy, were we spoiled! 

 

Those of us born between 1946 and 1964 were golden children. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the term "baby boomer" is used in a cultural context, as well as just a head count. Didn't we know it! We had the power that comes with numbers. Our enormity alone meant that we created a lump in the population. Picture these figures as the bulge in a snake that has just swallowed a pig -- slightly scary and impossible to ignore. 

 

According to Baby-Boomer magazine, 4,000,000 babies were born in each of those years. That comes to about seven each minute, more than twice the pre-war statistics. 

 

As much as we hate to admit it, the "boomers" are now old. Recent years have seen an average of 7,000 new Medicare beneficiaries each day; "a total of 2.5 million baby boomers who will swamp America's senior's health care insurance program. Seventy million individuals are estimated to become eligible for Medicare each year over the next 20 years, compared to 45.2 million in 2008." (American Association for Retired Persons) 

 

Most of us worked hard and paid federal taxes, state taxes and, most importantly, contributed into Medicare. We may have grumbled about the list of deductions on our pay stubs. Now, we hope to get some of that back in the form of health care. 

 

But, hold on. Our fairy tale expectations for a happily-ever-after may not have the ending we expected -- especially in Mississippi. Evidently, doctors in this state are not eager to see Medicare patients. 

 

"Mississippi State University social science professor Ronald Cossman conducted the study of health care access in the Magnolia State. He and other researchers had people pose as patients and telephone for appointments. Among core primary care physicians, only 47 percent agreed to take new Medicaid patients. In contrast, new patients with private insurance got appointments three-fourths of the time, the study found. In the nation as a whole, more than two-thirds of doctors open their doors to new Medicaid patients." (Clarion-Ledger, March 29). 

 

The doctors have a legitimate gripe. Dr. Aaron Shirley, chairman of the Jackson Medical Mall, said what also makes some Mississippi doctors reluctant to take on new Medicaid patients is the government's reimbursement rate, which he called " ... terribly low. Sometimes it's less than cost." 

 

A routine visit to a primary care physician might run $110 for the average patient, he said. "Medicaid reimbursement for that same visit would be more like $70 or $75" (Clarion Ledger). 

 

Hippocrates wrote that famous oath about 400 years BC. In it, he makes a lot of vows to Apollo, Hygieia and some other residents of Mount Olympus. He talks about "regimens for the good of my patients," and "keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing." There are no footnotes about helping only those who can pay. 

 

I suppose we can't blame contemporary doctors. After all, they have expenses. But, it begs the question, why doesn't Medicare pay the going rates for treatment? Certainly, we have the funds. 

 

The war in Iraq cost $720 million a day, or $500,000 a minute (Washington Post). Just think what could be done with all that money. Health care is just the tip of a ginormuos iceberg. 

 

Baby Boomers are watching our pennies these days. It might be difficult for us to grasp immense waste by our government. But, dear politicians, do try to explain it to us. Remember, we love fairy tales, and are expecting our happy ending.

 

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.

 

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