Medicare Madness … there HAS to be a better way


I will be joining the ranks of Medicare enrollees next year, so in preparation I began my research into what I had assumed was a fairly straight-forward enrollment.  Boy, was I mistaken!  I’m not sure how others handle this (maybe they just enroll, toss the dice and hope for the best), but my general impression is that Medicare is the scam and fraud of the century.

First, it’s very confusing.  There’s Part A hospitalization which is “free” (but often not totally free thanks to limits).  Then Part B for doctor care, which after years of paying Medicare taxes, still requires a premium only to learn many quality doctors won’t take just Medicare – a supplemental plan is needed.  Making matters worse, the Part B premium is based on your earnings of two years prior (which are nowhere near what you draw in retirement).

Then there’s Part C, which is basically Medicare but is provided by private insurers and some doctors still won’t take some insurers.  Then there’s Part D for drugs coverage (often from a government list of allowed prescriptions).  Followed by Part E for supplemental plans (where you might actually get to see a good doctor).  Think that’s all?  Nope, not to be outdone, there’s (get this!!!) Parts F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, and N!  OMG.

OK, so I searched for a type of plan I wanted that would allow me to keep my doctor.  To get any price, you have to go through an insurance broker / agent. Why isn’t this information on-line based on one’s zip code and tolerated range of travel?  Better yet, how to you find a plan that includes your doctor and takes into consideration your health (no smoking, etc.)?  Having a broker / middle person just adds to the cost of coverage… pure economics 101.

Next, the Medicare premium penalties!!! WOW, this was news to me… Medicare kicks in at 65, even though social security doesn’t start until age 66 or later.  If you don’t want Part B, no problem, opt out.  BUT, if you do, you will pay a 1% penalty for each and every month you delay… FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!!!  (I sincerely suspect Satan was consulted on this.)

It does make sense to have to pay those missed premiums, BUT what totalitarian-bent-legislator came up with the non-actuarially supportable concept of applying a penalty to ALL future premiums?  Ah, this was a bureaucrat writing for a Representative.  A similar penalty applies to Part D coverage.  Insanity… it’s just a way to force seniors to sign up for coverage that they will discover doesn’t really provide good coverage unless they get supplemental plan coverage.  Government tyranny, King George would be proud!

Finally, the cruelest hoax is what happened to all the Medicare taxes we paid for our working careers?  Had we put them into Health Savings Accounts and investments, many of us would have the ability to self-fund all of our future medical needs. But its compassionate to also care for the less fortunate (which sadly includes some lazy people who never prepare for the future and live for the present), so paying into a health care pool to take care of everyone seems proper.

But the giant Medicare/CMS, insurance, hospital and pharmacy industry is siphoning money away from compassionate care.  President Eisenhower once warned of the “military-industrial complex”; where is the rightful rage against the “bureaucratic-insurance industry-health care complex”???

No one has ever accused our government of providing something simple and easy to understand.

In a good world, if you’re sick or injured, you should get immediate, quality health care, regardless of your ability to pay.  You should also be encouraged to regularly exercise, eat a balanced diet, not smoke, and abstain from excesses.  People in good health who don’t abuse medical services should get a price break.  Don’t look to Medicare or these supplements for this concept.

I believe it’s time for America to provide health care for every tax paying citizen.  No forms or bureaucracy, just a health care card and access to any doctor, hospital or wellness clinic.  Government will NOT be the solution, as it’s a major part of the health care problem.

The health care system needs to be more physician-quality care-focused.  Find a doctor or physician group that you trust and let them make medical decisions that are not influenced by insurance company cost controllers.  Search YELP or similar reviews, which should include pricing.  Pay for your own annual physical and lab tests.  Have an insurance plan to cover the unexpected – that is the purpose of insurance.  (No auto insurance policy covers tires, oil changes. etc.).  Select the deductible, coverage and cost that you feel best meets your needs.

Charities and true non-profits used to run hospitals.  Today’s non-profits hide profits in the form of non-taxed “reserves”.   They profit each time a patient is charged $4000 a day for a “Motel 6” quality bed and $30 for a 3 cent aspirin.  Hospitals are typically monopolies in an area, yet are, for all practical purposes, unregulated for price gouging.

Free enterprise would deliver better, more affordable health care if allowed to be truly free of bureaucratic regulations that serve no purpose in assuring quality care.  But big pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies with their cadre of lobbyists will fight to the death to prevent truly innovative and affordable health care.

More thoughts in the future… I have to deal with the headaches from Medicare enrollment research for now…

Walt Watson resides in rural Northern California where one still finds clean air and pure water, devoid of the distractions and crowded rat lifestyle of urban / suburban living and where community is more important than political affiliation.