People who buy a Medicare supplement to fill the gaps in Medicare (also known as Medigap insurance) go to the doctor too much. Therefore, people who buy Medigap insurance should pay a surcharge to Medicare because they are going to use the health care system too much. That is the conclusion President Obama and his advisers have reached as they seek out ways to reduce Medicare costs and cut government spending. Here is a letter I’m sending to the President.
Dear President Obama:
As an insurance broker working with Medicare-related products, I think your plan to impose a surcharge on seniors who purchase Medicare supplements is a bad idea. You seem to think everyone who buys Medigap insurance has lots of money, and you seem to think most seniors can afford to pay more of their health care costs.
Just yesterday, I met a woman who lives in a double-wide trailer in Tucson, Arizona and is thrilled to be turning 65 so she will once again have health insurance. Laura (not her real name) has numerous health issues that have received limited treatment because she has been without health insurance since she took early retirement from a large, well-known company. Once Laura gets her Medicare coverage, she will get an operation she needs on her thyroid. Then she will address a long list of other medical issues .
Laura makes too much money to qualify for help with her Medicare costs or Part D drug coverage because she has Social Security and a small pension that totals $1,600 per month. The cost of a Medicare supplement plus a Part D plan premium each month will severely strain her budget, but the co-pays that come with a Medicare Advantage plan could add up to thousands of dollars each year. Fortunately for Laura, she has a daughter who wants her to get a Medicare supplement and will help with the premiums – even though the daughter doesn’t have a lot of money herself.
Laura’s daughter wants her mother to get a Medigap plan so she won’t have to worry about whether or not she can afford to see a specialist, get the operation she needs, or get physical therapy for her bad knees. Laura’s daughter has seen her mother suffer with health issues and put off care because she has not had insurance – and she wants that to stop.
Mr. President, I think you are listening to advisers who have no clue about people on Medicare and how many struggle to pay their Medicare supplement premiums or the co-pays that come with Medicare Advantage plans.
In looking over my Medicare supplement client list I see mainly lower-middle class seniors who are conservative about their planning for the future. Most of them are not sickly – they are just planners who have chosen to get the best coverage possible for their future needs. I also have clients like Laura who have serious health problems - and serious concerns that they will be refused medical treatment in the future because they can’t afford the co-insurance.
What kind of country treats its seniors this way? And how do you calculate how much money each senior can afford to pay – or should pay – for their medical care? If seniors are getting too many tests and too many knee replacements, whose fault is that? Seniors don’t decide to seek tests and treatment on their own – they listen to their doctors!
Mr. President, the idea of pushing more costs onto seniors is called “consumer-driven heath care”. This is a system where more and more costs are pushed onto patients – so they get to “ration” their own care. I worked for a large insurance company and this was their mantra. I don’t know if you realize it, but your policies are right out of the insurance industry book – and will push more people into Medicare Advantage plans (which you have campaigned against).
There are other ways to control the Medicare budget without forcing seniors to ration their care based on ability to pay. I ask again, “What kind of country treats its seniors this way?”