Monday, August 17, 2009

A Bad Pitch

Some parts of the bad salespitch are obvious. When no one has ever seen a competent government run program, free of kickbacks, payoffs and favoritism, it would seem a poor policy to pitch your proposal of national healthcare by suggesting it would be an improvement. That doesn't make much sense.

The Post Office is costing more in both postage and subsidies each year, while seriously contemplating massive reductions in service. Amtrak only provides a token practical service along the Boston/New York/Washington corridor while the rest of the nation is without passenger rail transit. Social Security offers much less than if a worker had put the same money in an investment account and is postulated to disappear in a generation without massive changes. Medicare doesn't do badly, but still is in dire financial straits, is usually less than satisfactory coverage and inevitably requires a supplemental free-market insurance plan.

So, let's get another big helping of government for our healthcare needs. Really?

Let me give you an example of the bad sales pitch from the Grand Junction event. The Messiah touted the discontination of Medicare Advantage plans as an improvement and a savings.

Are you familiar with Medicare replacement programs called Medicare Advantage?

My mother-in-law was 87 when her husband died. She had good healthcare coverage with the supplemental program that his retirement plan provided. She saw specialists, had the bills paid, and when her husband fell ill the plan covered nearly a quarter of a million dollars in medical bills. It was good coverage.

A government program (someone quiet those sirens and warning horns going off...)called COBRA provided for her to be continued in his health plan for three years. She would pay premiums of nearly $400 a month to get the benefit of that program. No drug coverage though, no eye exams, no dental either. And co-payments.

We worried when the three years were approaching the end. How does one seek a supplemental health insurance plan on a 90 year old woman with a history of heart attack, cancer and a routine menu of geriatric ailments? What could it cost?

Enter Medicare Advantage. I went searching for Medicare supplements prepared for disaster. I found a veritable cornucopia of competing (that's a great word!) plans from private insurers. Some were supplements but the best coverage was labeled Medicare Advantage. Lots of companies offered them.

They give you healthcare insurance and then get compensated for part of their expenses by Medicare. No Medicare claims for the doctor--he/she goes directly to the insurance provider. There is generally no co-payment. Doctors apparently get paid better than Medicare because we never found a specialist or practitioner reluctant to accept it. Virtually everything was covered--eyes, dental, prescriptions, etc. The plan was great not because it brought government in, but because it fenced government out. It interceded between patient, doctor and insurance to deal with Medicare bureaucrats.

Best part of all, it cost that 90 year old frail lady, $120 a month--and it was the gold-plated premier edition. Some plans were as low as $30 or $40 a month. When she passed away last spring after a blessedly short illness, virtually every expense was covered.

The Messiah promised to do away with Medicare Advantage plans. That will save us money he promised.

Oh boy, I can hardly wait.