Discover more from Fred Klonsky in Retirement
It's open enrollment and too many choices with the privatized portion of Medicare.
Good morning readers.
I like to start my newsletter with a reminder that by clicking the subscribe now button above you will receive this newsletter in your email every time it is posted for free. If the mood strikes and your pocketbook is open to the idea you can also contribute either $5 a month or $60 a year. It allows you to post comments and it also keeps the trolls away.
It is November 1st and I’m a few weeks away from my one year check-up. My doc wants to see if there is a reoccurrence of any cancer since I had one kidney removed with a orange-sized cancerous tumor attached.
My oncologist says there is a five to fifty percent chance within the first two years following my surgery that the cancer could come back.
A range of five to fifty percent seems like a lot to me.
I will patiently wait for the results of the MRI in a couple of weeks
I’m 73-years old which means I have been with Medicare for eight years. As a retired public school teacher in Illinois I have the option of using a Medicare Advantage program negotiated by the state of Illinois, partly subsidized by the contributions of active teachers - including myself when I still was one.
By choosing the Medicare Advantage option I am spared the burden of staying or changing each October through December which is the open enrollment period.
Most of those covered by Medicare are not spared trying to make sense of of dozens of competing private insurance plans.
Many don’t bother.
Mike is a reader of mine who isn’t happy that as a retired teacher the state subsidy isn’t offered to those who choose Original Medicare.
I think the whole process for most folks on Medicare sucks. It is confusing. There are too many choices to wade through. It exists mainly for the benefit of private insurance companies.
Since the current open enrollment season is when most of those on Medicare can comparison shop it is why Joe Namath keeps popping up on your TV screens hawking a version of Medicare Advantage.
Turn down the remote when Joe is talking and listen to someone like Shari.
Let me tell you about Shari.
Later this afternoon I will be on a Zoom get together with a bunch high school friends from over 50 years ago. The Zoom calls started with the onset of the pandemic and continue every Monday afternoon.
Shari is one of my fellow high school alums and she is a volunteer counselor for California SHIP.
I think I heard about SHIP when I turned 65. But even though I am a politically active retiree and I try to keep up with issues concerning the elderly, I never investigated SHIP.
Maybe I was skeptical about finding anything useful on the Medicare web site.
And I wasn’t exactly unjustified in feeling this way.
The New York Times in a column about why more people don’t comparison shop for Medicare health plans writes that The Center for Medicare Advocacy, a nonprofit group, has charged that Medicare itself has shown bias toward private Medicare Advantage plans in its promotional materials, starting in 2017. “They started overplaying some of the benefits and downplaying some of the negatives,” said Mr. Lipschutz. “I think they wanted private health insurers to thrive.”
Medicare has since resumed a more neutral stance, but “they still have a way to go,” Mr. Lipschutz said.
But it turns out that SHIP, The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (Shiphelp.org) that my friend Shari volunteers with is a federally funded, free counseling services that really does help those on Medicare navigate through the web of choices.
Following one of our Zoom meets Shari wrote me:
If you get a print version of Medicare and You 2022, the phone number will be on the back cover.
That is the Illinois version of the organization I volunteer for in California.
It can be a good source of information for open enrollment (oct 15 to Dec 7) to choose plan for next year. They can explain the choices.
Also, it is a good source of information on how Medicare works and the choices when enrolling. Including all the pitfalls of missing your enrollment periods.
Plus the SHIP program helps if you have a problem with Medicare. Like a claim that is denied, or a discharge from acute care before you think you are ready.
You can help spread the word. Most folks don't know about SHIP. Once they do, they often call each year for help during open enrollment.
In 2019 The Times reported that 71 percent of Medicare beneficiaries didn’t compare plans during the open enrollment period.
That is because without the help of someone like Shari it is nearly impossible to compare what in some states can be nearly 60 different private insurance programs.
Those who don’t attempt to change or compare grow in number among the poor and among the elderly that are Black and Latinx.
The Congressional bill currently being debated among the Democrats will not make any meaningful improvements in retiree healthcare.
It certainly won’t end the privatizing of what passes for elderly health care in America.
The Democrats have already made clear that they have no intention of reducing the profits of the huge drug industry by allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of medications.
I have an asthma inhaler that has a list price of $400 in the U.S. and $27 in Canada.
My private insurance covers it and my co-pay makes it affordable. But the drug company that produces it is making out like a bandit.
The Democrats have also dropped dental and vision coverage from the bill.
They say dental coverage would be too expensive for the government.
I can’t afford dental insurance so I pay out of pocket. If the Democrats think dental coverage is too expensive for the government, how do they imagine I can afford it?