To the Editor:
I think it is unconscionable, if not outrageous, that Tim Kalich in a December 10 edition of The Star-Herald opinion piece dared to even suggest that one way to encourage Covid-19 vaccinations is to slap those on Medicare, typically those 65 and older, with a punishing “surcharge” on top of their monthly Medicare premium, if they do not fulfill a patriotic duty to get vaccinated.
In self disclosure, based on age, I am on Medicare. That said, I’m writing from a town, a county, and indeed a state where neither my State, County nor City government has done one damn thing to enforceExecutive Orders to control and minimize the impact of the pandemic. Doing so might have aided those on Medicare, those statistically 85% more likely to die from the virus, by reducing cases statewide and thus reducing their potential exposure and death. Not only that, but local government leaders who should try by example to inspire others to follow safe behaviors have seemed almost intentionally to do otherwise. Where was patriotic duty in their case? Did they all get full salaries while shirking responsibility?
A recent example of failed duty comes from Governor Reevess. He is flaunting that he will be holding several Christmas parties, and is doing this after already condoning a much criticized large fundraiser for himself a few weeks ago. Another example is the Sheriff of Lee County who proclaimed despite soaring case numbers, “I will not enforce Executive Orders.” All that Kosciusko’s Mayor Cockroft seems to have done for months is to post an almost unreadable copy of the latest Executive Order on the City Facebook page, thus apparently fulfilling his duty for inspirational leadership. The week prior to the latest EO, before masks were once again mandatory for Attala, the Mayor brazenly posed maskless with several elderly volunteers, also mask less, for a front page picture in The Star-Herald. Furthermore, except for some early information months ago from Dr. Gray Wallace, and I believe Dr. Timothy Alford, nothing seems to have appeared in The Star-Herald or elsewhere from local health care leaders (whoever they are) which might locally inspire or inform the public about prudent personal behaviors in light of the pandemic, which would also benefit persons on Medicare. Local businesses have even openly mocked compliance with mask requirements, either for customers, or themselves, forcing seniors into further staying at home. So, amidst this unchastised flurry of extremely poor citizenship, Kalich now suggests that seniors should dutifully and patriotically get vaccinated or punitively be surcharged!
How many persons on Medicare even know whether it will pay for the two required vaccinations? Is it known where to go to get the “jab.” Jab is what British persons call the vaccination. All seniors (and others) get it free of charge in the UK with no concerns about charges. Of course, a free vaccination would be deemed socialism or communism in Mississippi. Rather than make free arrangements for seniors, Reeves is instead salivating over setting aside state funding to require students to take a Trump inspired “Patriotic Education Course” to help keep socialistic a.k.a. communistic a.k.a. atheistic ideas, including health care for all, out of Mississippi. Apparently, Reeves thinks it is “Better to be Dead from Covid Than Red from Communism.” Perhaps Reeves has overlooked that in June 2020 even his beloved Trump pledged that all vulnerable would receive free vaccinations. Maybe, however, Reeves decided to not lick that particular boot of Trump’s, or if so, he hasn’t bothered to inform vulnerable Medicare citizens of MS that vaccination will be totally free.
Consequently, it is unanswered for seniors on Medicare if the two vaccinations are free, or if free will they still be charged for two office visits and two co-pays, or whether there will be instead a socialistic drive through where communistic atheists give shots free of charge. Assuming also that some well persons on Medicare may need the vaccinations, but haven’t yet met any of their yearly deductible which will rise to 198.00 next year. That’s an instant out of pocket charge if office visits are charged, especially since clinics often charge 30.00 on top of office visit charges to give any shot. Those on Medicare, may also be those on limited income! Who is stepping up to let them know these monetary details, while meanwhile Kalich spouts a suggestion that seniors be hit with a surcharge if they don’t promptly get vaccinated? That would be on top of the 145.00 monthly premium most already routinely pay every month, whether they receive care that month or not. Of course, one could call a local clinic, along with 1000s of others and ask about charges. The likely result would be getting a recorded message saying “You are next at number 36, so please hold,” and meanwhile risk going hypoglycemic while listening to horrid Musak for an hour.
Being fair though, help is out there, but how many on Medicare (or anyone else for that matter) have read the 45 page “Covid 19 Vaccination Plan” published online by the Mississippi Department of Health? How many even know about the Plan? This bureaucratic tome tells those over 65 and on Medicare, along with everyone else, where they fall in the queue to be vaccinated and where they should be able to get it. Even with the marked advantage of having college degrees from non-Mississippi universities, I couldn’t arrive at a definitive answer to those questions for myself. It does appear clearly that I’m in line well behind all crematory operators as well as behind all “trainees” in funeral homes, because they are deemed critically essential workers by Tater Head Reeves, while I am not. I may also be somewhere in a long line which includes 1,926,526 persons with obesity from the ages of 18 upwards, but only if my BMI is 30+ or over, or possibly along with a line of prisoners and the homeless.
Now while personally it is repugnant to me that there has to be a line at all, and maybe doubly repugnant that compassion shouldn’t put prisoners and homeless much nearer the top, still, why can’t one of the 45 pages clearly state (preferably in large print for old eyes) “Go Here to Get Your FREE Trump Promised Vaccination if you are age 65 and on Medicare.” A tiny box (with a typo) does say that “Social Media, Radio, TV, and New [sic]” will provide persons age 65 and older with that information. Meanwhile, which social media should those on Medicare dutifully glue themselves to for vital information? Is it Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter? What if those who think that Trump really would have won the presidential election if it hadn't been rigged are fanatically glued to the new social media called Parler. Along with preaching that Trump actually won in every state he lost in, Parler also preaches that the pandemic is a fake news conspiracy promulgated by Democrats, the New World Order, and liberal mainstream media. Furthermore, some Parler followers believe that vaccinations should be refused, because in cahoots with Bill Gates they contain nanobot microchips which once injected will allow persons to be monitored and tracked by a socialistic 5G Chinese inspired database tracking system.
What happens to duty to get vaccinated in this case?
Kalich aside though, patriotic duty for the vulnerable to get promptly vaccinated may, however, be irrelevant for quite a while. Thanks to Trump’s business acumen, the U.S. has only contracted for initially getting 100 million doses of Pfizer vaccine nationwide, with no more forthcoming possibly until as late as June or July 2020. He turned down options to secure more. Meanwhile, Pfizer is concerned that complex supply chain issues may impact on its ability to deliver even promised batches, and vaccines in trials by several other companies have only this week crashed out of the picture with flaws. U.S. doses of Pfizer vaccine are supposed to be distributed based on state population.
Mississippi is 32nd in state population. The NYT (12/11/20), reports Dr. Thomas Dobbs as stating that MS will get 25,000 doses in “mid December” and a second shipment of 25,000 “a few weeks later,” vague to say the least. Recall that two doses are needed per person. MS needs 156,000 doses to cover front line hospital workers, 25,200 doses to cover nursing homes, about 1500 to cover crematories and funeral parlor trainees, and 488,000 for ages 65+. While I can dutifully continue to be a relatively safe hermit in my house and not have a clue about when I might actually be able to get immunized, the incarcerated may meanwhile die (30,000 doses needed) and the homeless as well (1200 needed). And Kalich suggests that Medicare seniors be surcharged? Here’s a suggestion, Mr. Kalich. Why not just suggest that seniors be penalized their cost of living monthly Social Security raise for 2020? Monthly, mine is about enough to purchase a dollar copy of the Star Herald for four weeks. If I forgo those purchases, I could avoid reading stony hearted, punitive, senior bashing opinions preaching about my patriotic duty to get vaccinated.
Beverly E. Johnson