For those of us in the U.S. who are 65 and older, these weeks leading up to December 7 are our annual opportunity to choose a new Medicare plan. It’s called open enrollment season, but it’s not a season to be jolly. No, it’s a season to either stick with what works or bang your head against a wall.
I’ve used Blue Cross/Blue Shield here in Massachusetts for my Medicare supplement plan for the past four years, and it is not cheap, but it covers my many specialists at home and in Boston. On Monday, Al was reviewing his own coverage and spoke with a trusted insurance broker who recommended switching to another Medicare supplement program that would save about $45 a month over BC/BS. When Al encouraged me to speak with him, I declined.
Maybe it would be helpful, but I am totally risk averse on this topic. I know all my docs accept my insurance. The coverage is quite comprehensive. There is no copay.
Note that this is a Medicare supplement (Part F), not a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) that I’m talking about. I have avoided Medicare Advantage like the plague, because those plans are based on a narrow provider network, and I need broad access to specialists. Fine for seniors with minimal health issues. That’s not me.
A client who is very knowledgeable about how health insurance does and doesn’t work in this country has warned me that, eventually, Medicare supplements (Medigap) will be phased out and only Medicare Advantage will be available. I believe her, but so far, I’m still able to get the coverage I need. Not so for anyone enrolling new to the system. There are already limitations on who can get Medigap.
Ultimately, the glaring question is this: Why does this have to be so fraught and complicated? Given the current mess in Congress, chances of rational, comprehensive national health insurance in the U.S. is a distant dream. Even improving Medicare is a slog. A new law, part of the federal Inflation Reducation Act (IRA) that will cap out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions at $2,000 annually, won’t go into effect until January 2025. Efforts to include coverage for hearing aides in the IRA—an item needed by so many seniors that is a budget buster for custom hearing aides—failed for lack of political support.
I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you, Dear Reader. Let’s just say I find the whole topic infuriating. Health care in the richest country in the world should be a right and a common sense priority for public investment. End of rant.
Image: Courtesy of Gratisography