December 16, 2007

Some thoughts on Medicare

The last few years I have gotten a notice from Social Security, stating what I am eligible to receive. This year I could get minimum benefits, more at 66 years old and maximum at 70. The notice also stated that I am required to sign up for Medicare benefits at 65. The way it read, it seemed mandatory, although I am not sure.

While I was on dialysis, I had signed up for Medicare, because I wasn't sure my union health plan would cover completely the dialysis treatment without a copay. I could not afford to pay even $10.00 per treatment at that time. My cost for Medicare was quite a bit lower per month than the copay. After my kidney transplant, Medicare became my primary insurance and my coverage was not as complete as my employee plan. I wound up having to pay a deductible and other unexpected cost. My employee plan not taking up the difference from Medicare; having Medicare then, sucked. Fortunately for me it ended three years after my transplant.

With my retirement plan, I will be able to keep my employee health plan for five years after I retire. I don't want to sign up for Medicare until the health plan is over, because the coordination of benefits between my health plan and Medicare is certain to screw me. The prescription plan, Part D of Medicare, is certain to be more costly, because my prescriptions run about $10,000 a year. I have to buy supplemental insurance to fill the gap, between $2000 and $5000. I don't know if the prescription plan I have when I retire, would even work with Part D. Not any of this was explained in the booklet the government distributed.

What I don't get, is that I keep hearing there will be a crisis in Medicare, more so than Social Security in a few years when the first wave of Baby Boomers retire. If there is a crisis, why is it then mandatory that you sign up for Medicare, if not at 65, certainly when you sign up for Social Security? Having had experience with Medicare, I wish I were financially able to opt out completely. This is one reason I get a little edgy about a national health care plan. I don't think it would save me any more money and I can see congressmen that don't want it to work creating a compromise that will make it more complicated and and more costly which would eventually doom it to fail. Then there is also a mindset about the people who will benefit, it may be seen as welfare, in which it will be designed to keep one ill, rather than healthy: as the welfare system was designed to keep the poor, poor; because to really give them enough benefits to help them out of poverty, would do so without them deserving it.

There isn't a particular idea in the post. I was listening this morning about the economic outlook for this country and as always Medicare and Social Security came up. I had some thoughts about my own experience, I wanted to share. There is another question that I would like to ask the blogosphere, but unfortunately most of my traffic comes from folks who find my blog from two images, one of polycystic kidneys and the other showing women Iranian soldiers wearing a hijab. Anyway the question is: would those who are well off and bitch about Social Security and Medicare not being the government's responsibility, opt out? I was thinking if they did, would there be a crisis?

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