Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A warm blanket around my shoulders

Today Shirley decided we should have medical insurance beyond Medicare. I didn't like the sound of it. I reckoned the government and their co-conspirators, Big Insurance, have likely confused health care programs to a point where most older folks just sign up - give up - after reviewing the vast dizzying of plans. I figured it would be something like trying to figure out those cell phone plans (go ahead! I dare you to tell me you understand yours.)

I was right.

I dutifully went to the site and spent the better part of four hours studying the various plans. I called and talked to an insurance agent (you know - like talking to the fox about how to safeguard the hen house.) Shirley called a woman in the business office at one of our doctors offices and asked her opinion. This was the woman, I might add, who'd recommended the insurance guy in the first place (thus, I'm thinking she's getting a finder's fee.)

The bottom-line is: I'm even more confused than usual. That's saying a lot.

Let's see? There's regular Medicare, Part A and Part B. Part B cost us $94 each and that's plain - simple - easy to understand. Even I understand it.

There's Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs and it too should be easy. It's not. There's so many different plans offering so many different options and prices that a shyster (oops! I meant lawyer) could figure them out.

There's Medicare Advantage Plans, most of which seem to offer no more than the usual Medicare, only at a higher price.

Then there's Medicare Supplement Insurance, which offers to cover that which Medicare doesn't cover. Sounds like a good deal until you see the rates.

Finally, I read dozens of sites that said that you'd probably die (or at least go broke) if you bought into one of the Medicare Advantage Plans. These sites scared the wits out of me until I realized they were the same people who sold the Advantage Plans. That's right! They sold both the Advantage Plans and the Medicare Supplement Plans and they were pushing one over the other!?! Now why would they do that? Maybe because one plan was far more profitable than the other? That would be my guess.

I also read that Medicare (our fine government) payed these companies on average 16% more for services than they payed providers (our doctors, hospitals, etc.) So it would appear that the health care insurance companies are playing both ends against the middle. Pushing their Medicare Supplement Plans because they're more profitable and, at the same time, pushing the Medicare Advantage Plans because they can pick up an additional 16% gross from our good old government. Man! That's a win-win situation in anyone's book!

We called a few doctor's offices to see if they were disposed to taking:

New Medicare patients.

New Medicare Advantage patients

New Medicare Supplement patients

The unscientific survey concluded that doctors love Medicare Supplement Plans (must have a huge profit margin. Maybe they can bill as they choose,) they will take Medicare patients but only grudgingly (as an affectionate gesture to old codgers I suppose,) and they absolutely will not take Medicare Advantage Plans (they don't seem to care if you have a life-threatening illness or not.)

Now! Where does this all leave me? It leaves me more confused than ever! And, now, I'm mad at Shirley! If she hadn't started all this I wouldn't be sitting here hating the government (well, actually I would be hating the government, but for many other reasons,) hating the medical profession and mad at her. The way I figure it is - we were doing fine just using Medicare when we went to the doctor. Yeah, it cost us a little money but really not that much in the end.

So! Here's the deal! We're gonna stay with Medicare! We're gonna forget about buying into all the hype about supplemental insurance plans and do the best we can.

And who knows? Maybe in the not too distant future our new President will sign into law the new National Health Care Act. Maybe then we'll all get free health care and won't have to worry about things like this.

Who knows? Maybe? NOT!


As I understand President Bush's Medicare plan, it provides for unlimited coverage for anyone over 72 whose parents can pass the physical.
Mark Russell

Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting with a Broken Heart

I'm going to vote tomorrow. Why have I waited until tomorrow when folks have been voting for over two weeks? Why did I wait until the last day to go down to the polls and vote when I truly believe everyone I know has voted already? Yet I sit here, casually waiting for......for what.....FOR ELECTION DAY!

I've been voting since I was twenty one. I've voted Democrat and I've voted Republican. I've voted for candidates I really liked and I've voted for candidates I didn't like. But still....I voted! Still, this election, most folks I know are shocked that I'm waiting until Election Day to vote! Why? Because I vote on ELECTION DAY!

I admit that I could have voted at the county library or I could have voted over at the Second Baptist Church. It was my choice - it was convenient. But, if I waited until Election Day (the caps are deliberate) I'd, of course, had to vote over at my polling place, the Don Owens Sports Center. That's what I'm going to do!

Why is this such a big deal to me? Why would I care when or where folks voted? A vote is a vote, isn't it?

Well....maybe it is and maybe it isn't.

Back in the old days of crooked politics in New York, Chicago, (Little Rock?) and most other cities around the country, a few honest people tried to stop devious voters from voting "early and often." There was also an attempt to stop the "bosses" from trading booze for votes. Hence there was no consumption of alcohol on Election Day.

Well.....forget all that. With voting going on for weeks before Election Day, at alternate polling places around the country, opportunities for corruption abound. Drinking during "Election Month" is now legal (except on Election Day???? I find that strange?) and I'd bet a dollar against a donut we're back to the days of the boys down at Tammany Hall (okay, Tammany Hall is gone but the philosophy remains) trading booze for votes. Electronic voting machine error is now a fact of life, leading to the real likelyhood of rampant voting fraud at many of those alternate polling places.

And you seems like no one really cares. It makes me feel more than a little ashamed of our wonderful country. Still, tomorrow at around ten I'm going to drive over to Don Owens Sports Center. I'll wait in line (that is, if everyone hasn't voted already) and I'll pull some of those levers (oh yeah, we don't do that any more, what with electronics and all.)

I know....I just know, that I'll walk out to my car afterward wondering what has happened to the country I love. Something terribly wrong has happened and I honestly don't think it's repairable. Sadly I believe there are too many citizens who are willing to paraphrase the great words of John F. Kennedy. Their mantra now is:

"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what your country can do for you."

And that hurts my heart.


In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant. Charles de Gaulle