Monday, July 13, 2009

If you 'd like to do anecdotal arguments for or against nationalized health care...

... then you should talk to my Dad.

Dad's 81, Mom's 78. When we talked last night he--shall we say--waxed eloquent about the idea that Medicare is the standard by which we should judge the government's performance as a health insurance provider.

First off, Dad points out, after a lifetime of paying Medicare taxes, the coverage is hardly free.

"They take $86 a month for each of us out of our Social Security payments," he notes. "Then the Medicare only covers about 60% of my out-of-pocket costs, so I had to get the supplemental insurance. We got the cheapest one we could find--bare bones coverage that leaves out a number of things we still have to pay for. That costs another $176 a month. And we didn't take the prescription drug coverage because that would have been at least another $120 a month. We just couldn't afford it."

Let's crunch those numbers: $86 + $86 + $176 + $120 = $468/month, or $5,616/year.

Above that, he estimates that--not counting prescriptions--he ends up with roughly another $3 - $4,000 of out-of-pocket medical expenses per year. Some of that occurs because the doctor he has seen for his joint problems for nearly two decades finally made the tough decision to stop accepting Medicare, so if Dad wants to keep seeing the physician he trusts (a major promise of the new reforms, right?) he has to pay the freight himself.

My Dad is a retired public school teacher: retired with a disability after twenty-eight years (he's legally blind); Mom stayed at home through most of those years. They're contemplating the move into assisted-care now, and as a bridge to that end they investigated having a home health aide come in a couple times a week to assist with the heavier housework.

Medicare pays for that, right?

Well, yes, sort of. Except, as the nice but oh-so-sorrowful woman at the benefits office explained, to qualify for the home health aide Mom would have to give up her driver's license. "We can't provide in-home services for people who can drive."

Of course, if Mom gave up her driver's license they'd have no way to shop ... or make doctor's appointments.

Would Medicare do that? "No, but there are some volunteer programs that might be able to help you out once a week or so."

The common meme/narrative/talking point most often extended by the advocates of single-payer or the public option is that the best case would resemble "Medicare for everybody."

But to have "Medicare for everybody," as President Obama now points out, the government will have to cut Medicare costs yet again.

To Dad what that means is pretty clear: "There will be more doctors who won't take my Medicare, and they'll raise my premiums and co-pays."

Anecdotal? Sure. Opinionated? Well, he is my Dad--what did you expect?


Shirley Vandever said...

I wonder what the rationale is for not providing home help when a person can drive. There are people who have no problem driving put can't physically operate a vacuum cleaner.

Almost as if they want to keep people as prisoners and make them as dependent as possible on "the system".

Miko said...

H.L. Mencken once wrote: "Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right."

The same principle is at work in the health care debate: left-statists focus on how poorly the state-granted quasi-private monopoly system works, while right-statists focus on how poorly the state-granted quasi-public monopoly system works. And both are absolutely right, yet simultaneously wrong as they seem to think that the poor functioning of one is an argument in favor of the other. What anecdotes should teach us here is that all monopolistic (i.e., anti-free market) systems are terrible.

Anonymous said...

My point exactly, everyone will be an "exception", under federal care, and then hate it. I am going to find a way to help you navigate this. Are your parents in Delaware, or another state?

Steve Newton said...

Don't worry; I have plenty of experience navigating this ridiculous system--as does my Dad.

And since he spent considerable time saving and investing, he is one of the lucky ones who can afford this all. That's why we thought mac and cheese was a "meat dish" growing up.

And in actuality, surrender of a driver's license is not a pre-requisite according the Federal Medicare regulations--it's only how this particular idiot chose to interpret it. The standard is "extreme difficulty leaving home" which still allows for driving.

But if you were not equipped to do the research you'd never know you had just been given the wrong answer.