Monday, April 15, 2013

Reading about Medicare overhauls might be bad for your health

There is much being reported about how our law makers propose to change Medicare in various budget proposals and sequestration cuts -  making it very difficult to ignore and it is nerve rattling.  There is no way to predict what will actually happen and much of the reporting is either over hyped or just inaccurate.  If you want to really understand the implications of various congressional proposals go to  the Medicare Rights Center and sign up for their news letters.  They provide excellent analysis:

The Medicare Rights Center is a private, non-profit organization not affiliated with any government agency or corporate insurance company.  The reason I learned as much as I know about Medicare is that I have been a volunteer on their Medicare Helpline for about four years.  The organization has researchers, analysts, lawyers and a front line view of how hard it is for seniors and the disabled to figure out Medicare by answering over 14,000 helpline calls per year.  The phone calls I find the hardest to handle are from people in their eighties and older who are easily confused, at the mercy of their Medicare Advantage plans or medical providers, and haven't a clue about how to resolve problems.  These calls have shown me how lucky I am to have access to IBM insurance options and to still be able to figure things out for myself.  I dread the day I cannot and hope Congress will simplify Medicare insurance before then and that IBM will keep its promise to provide retirees with healthcare options. It's a lot to wish for.

The Medicare Rights Center regularly does analysis on those helpline calls and the impact of various government proposals.  They provide feedback to Congress on the current construct of Medicare, the private insurance industry providing Medicare Advantage and part D plans as well as the various congressional suggestions to revamp Medicare.  As an example, there is a notion held by some of our legislators that people who have secondary private insurance (aka medigap plans) go to the doctor more often than people who do not and thereby drive up overall Medicare costs.  So, the genius legislative thinking is those secondary plans should be "taxed".  The analysis of real data shows that is a wrong notion.  I, for one, do not enjoy going to a doctor no matter what insurance covers.  Turns out I am a good representative of the majority of people!  Hopefully, USA citizens will be informed enough to put pressure on legislators to act rationally.  It's a lot to wish for.

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