You and I should be able to buy into Medicare. It's really the best way out of this healthcare and budget mess.

Health care isn't what's causing our budget problems, much as the Right would have you believe. In fact, increasing access to Medicare could solve a lot of issues.

Medicare spends about 3 percent of what it takes in on administration -- there are no multi-million-dollar bonuses or high-paid lobbyists and public relations costs. Private insurance companies spend 20 percent, often more.

Physicians' offices have to hire entire departments of employees just to fight insurance companies' unjust denials, and no two companies' billing procedures are identical, so the confusing differences in billing make it even more likely that someone will be denied payment. Government programs are not alone in having intricate codes and requirements.

Americans spend nearly two-and-a-half times more per person on health care than do other industrialized nations, yet our life expectancy is shorter (77.9 years – below the verage 79.4 years of other advanced nations). And we have the highest rate of infant mortality of all industrialized nations. We have higher rates of caesarean birth, which is more expensive and more dangerous to both mother and child.

When you have a for-profit health care system, you wind up getting more MRIs for lower back pain and paying for more surgery, when the best route to relieving lower back pain in about 95 percent of patients is physical therapy.

A for-profit system also benefits from letting people get sicker. Rather than manage chronic illness, we allow it to progress to crisis -- high blood pressure leads to stroke, high cholesterol leads to heart problems, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to kidney failure and other expensive complications. Later cancer diagnoses are very profitable for the pharmecautical companies, since each round of chemotherapy can cost a quarter million dollars or more.

When you catch illnesses earlier, there's less expense -- and more importantly, less human suffering. The less we spend now on caring for people, the more we spend later, and the only beneficiaries of all that spending are the corporations that run the medical industrial complex.

Now is not the time to cut Medicaid and Medicare; now is the time to expand them and make them available to more Americans. I don't care if we move to all-Medicare. I'm happy to leave the option open to those who can afford it to stay in the for-profit system; I just don't think I should be forced to be part of our broken, greedy for-profit system anymore.

Why is Medicare, which takes care of the people who use the most health care, more efficient than private health insurance companies? Medicare doesn't have to consider the bottom line for its stockholders before anything else. By law, corporations' first obligation is to their stockholders.

One of the most expensive pieces of medical care is collecting money. Every physician has to have a billing office to deal with insurance companies whose first obligation is to keep the money you pay in for its stockholders. Billing experts can work around insurance company denials, but they're not cheap. Most practices have several people doing billing, and hospitals have entire departments. We spend more than any other industrialized nation's health system to collect money.



Sen. Orrin Hatch has said the poor in this country should do more to lower the nation's debt; the wealthy need to do less.  House Speaker John Boehner says we can't increase on the wealthy because they're "investing" in our economy.

That's not true. Surveys have shown again and again that, as a rule, the rich aren't re-investing in anything more than their own selfish pleasures, and they're getting richer while the rest of us are getting poorer.

What they want, of course, is cuts to "entitlement programs," which include Social Security and Medicare, and if you're really, really poor, Medicaid.

This means throwing people out of programs that offer them health care and a very moderate income for old age.

We're going to see elderly people discharged from nursing homes to families that aren't equipped to handle them.

Medications that people need will be withheld. Already, people with diabetes can't get the most effective medicines because Medicaid doesn't pay for them.

People with psychiatric illness can't get the treatment they need now, so what happens when you cut even more?

Children are being cut from the starte health insurance plans that were intended to get access to care for all children. My Congressman, Heath Shuler, believes all children whose families are below 300 percent of the federal poverty level are getting care. They aren't.

All of this before any "compromise" is reached on the debt ceiling.

I say it's time for Orrin Hatch and John Boehner to do more. It's time for the rest of us to insist that no cuts of any kind be made to Medicare and Medicaid. None.

President Obama has said any cuts to Medicaid would come from reductions in fees, but that's not feasible. Provider fees are so low already that people on Medicaid and Medicare have trouble finding doctors who can afford to care for them.

We have asked doctors, nurses and other providers to take enough cuts. They've given all they can give.

So, who's left? The wealthy. People like Orrin Hatch and John Boehner. Cough it up, boys.

We're into our new, slightly larger space. With the help of a few friends, we had everything moved into the new space before noon.

So, now we're in the Park Office Building at the corner of Charlotte Street & Woodfin Place,  Suite 230, on the second floor. Mike's photo is on the wall, so we're home.

I'll miss the Downtown Market; it had a lovely ambiance, and it was a good place to wander around when I needed a break. The market is still open, by the way, even though the building is in foreclosure; it likely will become a vendors' cooperative.

The building we're in now is filled with nonprofits and small businesses, and it's on the bus line. It's also accessible to people with disabilities. There's room for Patient Pals & Family Friends matches to meet in a private space.

It's nice to have a window -- something I didn't have in the last space, so I never knew if it was raining. I missed a few spectacular thunder storms.

It will take a few days to get settled and put everything in its new place, but Mike's picture is on the wall, the Internet is hooked up, and we're back in business.