Monday, October 27, 2008

Health Insurance follows Airlines' model

What’s happening to my Medicare “med advantage” insurance is a little like what’s happening to the airlines industry.

Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield sent me a required notice the other day titled “How Your Plan Will Change for 2009.”

The good news, such as it is, is that my monthly premium will remain the same: $75.

Not to forget that BC/BS pays for a menu of services beyond what’s covered by Medicare. I still make modest monthly Medicare payments too. And of course, like you, I’ve been paying into Medicare all my working life.

Now the bad news. It’s like the airlines charging for your checked bags, a pillow and blanket, lunch and god-know-what-next (Oxygen masks? Peanuts? Seat belts?)

The insurance notice tells me that out-of-pocket maximums have been raised 33 percent.

The inpatient copay for hospitals now applies to the first five days, rather than three.

Skilled nursing facility care had no copays for the first 25 days. Now it’s $25 per day.

Copays for doctor’s office visits go from $5 to $10.

On and on it goes. There are 13 other hikes. Add them up and this is not nickel and dime. It’s more like $25 and $50 per item per year. The only way to avoid them is not to need medical care. At age 66, I’m finding that isn’t possible.

Don’t get me started.

Last year I might have been able to afford this sort of gouging. This year, given the Republicans’ masterful handling of the financial industry, that’s no longer the case.

When is this country going to get health care right?

Frankly, I’m not holding out a lot of hope for Barack Obama’s making this significantly better. After all, how much of what we pay the insurance companies goes into the pockets of lobbyists? Gucci Gulch isn’t going away.

While the government is into buying banks, it should do the same with insurance companies. And it should go all the way. It should run them for the people, not the plutocrats.

Let’s face it, we need universal health care coverage. That’s the only way health care in this country will be, as Obama proclaimed in the last debate with “The Maverick,” a right, not a privilege.

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