Saturday, November 21, 2009

Medicare for everyone

Medicare for everyone is what Obamacare looks like to me. And that’s not good news. Several events in my life and the lives of those close to me will illustrate.

I turned 65 in September 2007 and my wife and I moved from Rochester, MI to Austin, TX in April 2008. Shortly after we moved I developed a swelling on the left side of my face. We must have called a dozen doctors trying to get an appointment. Each doctor, when he/she found out my primary insurance carrier was Medicare, wouldn’t see me. Finally we saw a physicians assistant at a clinic attached to hospital. He correctly determined that it was an allergic reaction to enalapril, a blood pressure medication I was taking. A few days later we were able to see an internist at the same clinic and he concurred with the PA’s opinion. He prescribed another blood pressure med and the problem hasn’t reoccurred. Our former physician in Rochester agreed with the diagnosis and new prescription and remarked that the reaction I had had could have been life-threatening. But doctors don’t like to take new patients who are on Medicare because of the poor reimbursements, the time required to get reimbursed, and the paperwork.

My mother has used a walker for several years, since she had a hip replacement. A few months ago I noticed a chunk missing from the tire of one of the wheels. The walker was made in China and wheels weren’t available for it. The nurse practitioner who looks after my mother told me that Medicare would pay for a new walker, but that seemed extravagant. I eventually found a wheel that fit perfectly at a local hardware store for $9.95. That’s where your tax money goes: $275 for a new walker instead of $9.95 for a wheel.

You would think that an organization like Medicare, with millions of subscribers, would use the clout of numbers to negotiate the best deal for its subscribers.
This may be true with health care practitioners, but not with vendors.
Billy Eberle’s column from GOPUSA (October 6, 2009) documents how Medicare overpays for equipment they pay for.
  • $7,215 to rent an oxygen concentrator, when the purchase price is $600.
  • $4,018 for a standard wheelchair, while the private sector pays $1,048.
  • $1,825 for a hospital bed, compared to an Internet price of $1,071.
  • $3,335 for a respiratory pump, versus an advertised price of $1,987.
  • $82 for a diabetic supply kit, instead of a $47 price on the Web
Under ObamaCare you will have government bureaucrats looking over your shoulder as you fill out your tax forms. It’s bad enough that they’re watching, but watch out when they draw the wrong conclusions. I retired in 2006 at age 63 and went immediately on Social Security. In the next few months my employer paid me $4000 in “Invention Awards” – awards for inventions I had submitted for patents prior to retirement. In September 2007 I got a letter from Social Security stating that since I had earned money following retirement, I was not entitled to the $12075 they had paid me. An envelope was enclosed in which to send my check for the $12075. Alternatively, if I chose not to reimburse them, they would stop Social Security payments until they had recovered $12075. I contacted my employer and they wrote a letter to Social Security explaining that the $4000 was for work I had done prior to retirement. However, they cautioned me not to get my hopes up. They had recently had a similar case and Social Security had required a form to be filled out that required signatures from officers of the company. And that would take considerable time. Apparently the letter worked. I say “apparently” because in January 2008 I got a letter from Social Security that said, in part

“We used $12075 of your benefits to recover all of your overpayment.
We have recovered all of the money you owed because of an overpayment.
In your next check we will pay you the difference between the money we have already paid you and the money you are now due.”

Huh? Perhaps they were thinking in terms of the fiction that everyone has a Social Security account with a fixed amount of money in it. In any case why was it necessary to “recover” their overpayment? They are the ones who made a mistake. They need to back out the claimed overpayment in their records, not “recover” it. We did receive a check for $368 from Social Security that month, in addition to the regular payment. Apparently it was for a cost of living increase they had withheld while my appeal was being decided. I complained to my Congressman that Social Security needed to train their letter writers to write more clearly, but I doubt that will do any good. Do you want to deal with letters like that on a regular basis? You will have to if Obamacare becomes law.

Several years ago my younger son was denied health insurance because he had a mild case of diabetes. I suspect that was due to government regulations limiting how much premiums could vary based on preexisting conditions.

The upshot of all this is that a government-run healthcare system will enormously complicate your life, with government bureaucrats looking over your shoulder as you fill out tax returns, frequently drawing the wrong conclusions, which you are then obligated to straighten out. In addition there will be no rhyme nor reason to how money is spent. Millions will be laid out to replace walkers that need only a new part, while you will be denied a medication or procedure because it costs $100.

1 comment:

Bill Hamilton said...

How about it foks? I'd really like to get some comments. I know I have readers, but what do you think?