Health care choices down the road

To the Editor:

The current discussion of Medicare reminds me of the American officer who explained that it was necessary to destroy a Vietnam town in order to save it from the VietCong. The Republicans are telling us that in order to save Medicare, we must destroy it — by turning it into a voucher program.

They warn that Medicare is headed toward bankruptcy. (And just what is a bankrupt medical care system? Do the hospitals close down? Do the doctors abandon their practices to become hedge fund operators?)

And, as always, they invoke the dire fate of our children and grandchildren, if drastic action is not taken now to halt rising Medicare costs.

Well, let’s consider our grandchildren. Think ahead, say 60 years, to the year 2071. Now, in the year 2071 will the medical care received by the American people be superior to what they are receiving today in 2011? Or will it be inferior? I don’t know. What I do know — and this is obvious — is that the medical care of Americans in 2071 will be the product of choices made by the people living here in 2071. Should they choose to do so, the American people could have in place in 2071 a system of universal coverage, in which reasonably adequate medical care is provided to almost all who need it.

Will the system be completely satisfactory? Of course not. A few people will probably fall between the cracks. And inevitably there will be some doctors, nurses, or other medical personnel who, in varying degrees, will be incompetent, careless, or not very committed to the welfare of their patients.

But there is no insuperable obstacle which would prevent our American society from recruiting, training, and adequately compensating a work force of medical professionals who could provide the great majority of our people with an acceptably high standard of care.

To reiterate, the quality and quantity of medical care our grandchildren will receive will be determined by the choices they make for themselves in their era. It will not be determined by us in the election of 2012.

R.E.L. Knight

West Tisbury