Friday, November 7, 2014

What Turning 65 Has Shown Me About America's Medical Insurance

What Turning 65 Told Me About America’s Health Insurance System

I turn 65 in December which makes me eligible for Medicare for the first time.  The process has revealed a lot of reality to me about America’s health insurance system that Americans should be aware of now that a new Congress and Senate majority has been elected and there is renewed GOP talk of “repealing Obamacare.”  

Going on Medicare has shown me how crazy people are --or uninformed-- who want to go back to pre-Obamacare days. Here’s what I discovered what happens when you do get to government provided medical insurance aka Medicare versus the world for those Americans under 65.

For years I have been an entrepreneur who wasn't on a corporate health or group plan. After I was laid off in the 80’s from a corporate job that had health insurance, I lost my coverage and didn’t have health insurance for over a decade because the costs were so high and my income was so unpredictable up and down.  I would get a policy, the costs would go up, and it would lapse due to inability to pay.  I had to do without it. It was like playing Russian roulette with my future since a major illness would bankrupt me.  

Only when I founded a successful company that allowed me to make the substantial monthly payment did I finally renew my coverage. But it was extremely costly since I could not be considered as part of a group, not even as a member of the Texas Bar. At the end I was paying $840 a month for a policy with a $10,000 deductible – a terrible policy not good for much but a catastrophic illness or accident.

I passed up an Obamacare policy last year when the site was having computer problems. It was a big mistake.  After I elected to stay with United Healthcare, my rates jumped 30% in midyear from about $640 per month to $840 per month for just myself --for a medical policy with a $10,000 deductible! They said they could do it because it was not an Obamacare policy!  I had passed up Obamacare plans that would have been much lower and had a lower deductible.  If I wasn't going on Medicare I would definitely be getting one of them this year!  Also, as a result of Obamacare, the Texas State Bar can offer its individual lawyer members a group rate!

Before the Affordable Care Act, even with a high deductible, I could have been denied insurance for a pre-existing condition, or canceled after getting sick. In those dark days many people were denied insurance, or canceled, with devastating personal consequences. Do you really want to go back to a time when they could deny you insurance? Those days are over only because of the Affordable Care Act – unless repealed by the new Republican majority in the Senate that insists upon it.

Now that I am eligible for Medicare, my health premiums are a fraction of what I had to pay a private insurance company! I am now facing monthly premiums of around $266 to $413 a month including a prescription drug plan and supplement insurance with only a $1,000 deductible.

I may be able to do better than that - there is a bewildering array of supplemental plans to choose from and I am still sorting it out. I have international legal experience and even I find the choices and differences in plans a challenge. Some of the additional coverage offered is free! Some have a small fee of $147 a month, including prescription drug costs.  I don’t take any prescription drugs other than a cholesterol pill, but some people have large prescription needs and Medicare helps tremendously.

So the talk about “repealing” Obamacare by the new GOP majority should scare the hell out of anyone under 65 because you will be screwed if you can no longer keep your kid on your policy until they are 26 or you are denied insurance because of your pre-existing conditions (obesity, smoking, cancer, age or other reason to deny you insurance.)   

That is how it was before the Affordable Care Act required that everyone applying for insurance must be covered regardless of their condition. Do you really want to lose that protection as a consumer?

Ironically, America picked the party for control of the U.S. Senate that has been working solely for the top 1% who don't need these protections from insurance monopolies while the bottom 99% can’t even get a boost in minimum wage or health insurance unless they are 65 or on Medicaid.  

Think about it.  Be careful what you pray for. You might just get it – and screw yourself in the process Americans.  My experience with the private insurance policies and Medicare shows how vastly better it is with Obamacare. We should have "Medicare for all" so those under 65 can enjoy what I am about to with those Americans 65 and over. 

(P.S. We are the only OECD country that doesn't provide healthcare for all our citizens).

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Solutions?  Check out the free chapter on making America No. 1 again “Agenda for American Greatness” at the book link below:

Michael Fjetland

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