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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Medicare Part B premium mysteriously still undisclosed - smells like dirty politics

I just watched the Oct. 25, 2013 U.S. House committee hearing on why the Website used by most States has been buggy and it wasn't system tested very much before rolling it out. (Oregon is using the site run by the Oregon Insurance Division for Obama Care Health insurance plans that start Jan. 1, 2014.) Of course, Republicans are shamelessly using this hearing as part of their campaign to undermine Obama-care, but equally shocking was the testimony that suggests the Obama administration is trying to hide the true costs by a last minute decision to not allow shopping without registering first. (I was surprised that no Democrat gave the excuse that they did this to prevent a denial of service attack by Republicans.) It will be interesting to hear the testimony of Obama's political appointee next week.

I've written before on healthcare politics: See previous post Oregon Obama-Care health insurance rates are designed-by-committee Dilbert cartoon (5/22/13)

A recurring thought I have had is that the demand for healthcare is effectively infinite because we all want to live forever, and therefore the issue with healthcare insurance is how society can best meet the sometimes conflicting goals of being both fair and compassionate in the way limited healthcare resources are allocated. Clearly, a capitalist free market system can be fair, in the sense that you can pay for the exact healthcare you want, however, such a system can lack compassion because many people who are in need may die because somebody with more money can have an optional medical treatment. Likewise, a totally socialist medical system could be compassionate because it can make sure those in the most need get the healthcare they need, but this could be unfair because it might happen only at the expense of everyone else who are not allowed to buy what they want in healthcare resources are limited.

I thought some more about these concepts when Aetna CEO Mark T. Bertolini appeared on MSMBC to discuss Obamacare and he pitched the idea that healthcare costs can't be managed unless Congress sets an overall budget for how much we want to spend in America on healthcare. Obviously, America is rich, but it can't afford to keep everyone alive forever. This thinking prompted my letter to the editor:

The Oct. 13 Associated Press story by Stephen Ohlemacher, "Social Security raise to be among lowest in years," speculated the government shutdown might be a reason for the delayed announcement of the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) that is provided by law to Social Security beneficiaries.

I smell dirty politics -- the same COLA factor is also used to determine "Original Medicare" premium increases that have always been available before September and printed in the approximately 200-page paperback book, "Medicare and You," mailed annually to all Medicare Beneficiaries so they can choose a healthcare plan during the open enrollment period in October. Mysteriously, for the first time in at least 15 years, page 4 says, "2014 Medicare premium and deductible amounts weren't available at the time of printing," but the book included prices for all of the privatized Medicare and Part D prescription drug coverage plans favored by Republicans.

Of course, on the Sunday talk shows, Republicans incited confusion by blaming mismanagement by Obamacare and they claimed Democrats were willing to accept budget cuts by changing the method used to calculate COLA, which nonpartisan economists say is already less than what elders actually face.

Shame on both Democrats and Republicans for neglecting the real issue -- we all want to live forever and allocating limited healthcare resources can't be done fairly and compassionately, by either Republicans' privatized healthcare systems or Democrats' socialized medicine plans, unless Congress sets an overall budget for healthcare.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Inaction of GOP, Democrats is suspect regarding health care info," Gazette-Times, Oct. 24, 2013, p. A1)

Here are some links to healthcare insurance information I've been reading: