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With my 89th birthday months behind me now, I'm entitled to senior geezer status. So, listen up, fellow geezers, I think we need to show that we do understand the president's new health care plan proposals.

Enough of this malarkey about death panels, rationed health care and that favorite villain - dare I say it? -socialism.

Fact is, my fellow ancients, we are living with socialism more and more as the years roll by.

Have you been feeling any pain? Have you been depressed? Of course not, it's working every day to curb your pain and depression.

Most of us find our Medicare quite workable and wouldn't part with it, even though when it was first enacted back in the mid 1960s its Republican foes predicted the sky would fall. They called it socialized medicine, which is exactly what it is. They were right to call it that, and we are right to cherish it.

Would you miss your monthly Social Security check? Now that's a stupid question, something like: Would you miss your bank account? With direct deposit, we don't even have to tote our checks to the bank anymore. Yes, it works, and everybody loves it. But let's face it. It's socialism.

Socialism is everywhere from the U.S. Postal Service to the National Weather Service. Did you attend a public school, as most of us did? Oops, there it is again. Private schools are fine if you can afford them and they seem to manage a coexistence with their public counterparts, so what's to worry?

Look around the world and you will find that we are lagging behind other developed countries in health care. Most of these countries have a single-payer plan like Medicare or Medicaid that our seniors enjoy. In these countries, everyone has a universal government plan, and insurance companies are totally unnecessary.

We have the world's most expensive health care, but we get surprisingly low ratings in quality and performance. At least, that's what the World Health Organization says.

Got any contacts in other countries via e-mail or travel? My cousins in the United Kingdom have no complaints about their single-payer system. A friend in Toronto just had a hip replacement right on schedule. It went well, and he is now back on the golf course. And so it goes.

The doomsayers also warn us about the perils of the transition to government-run health care. Yet thousands of Americans make that transition every day when their 65th birthday comes, and they swap their private plan for Medicare. For most, it is a happy day.

As for Medicaid, it is a poor folks' only life preserver, and it does more good deeds than the Boy Scouts. Let's hope we get a single-payer system as soon as possible, and let's worry about what will happen if we don't.

Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor.