mercredi 6 avril 2011

Here's why "I'll sneak in just under the wire" should comfort no one

Paul Ryan thinks he can buy my vote by keeping me, at age 55, in the current Medicare system when I'm old. Of course those who are 55+ and think they can heave a sigh of relief because they won't be part of the group that's given vouchers to buy health insurance on the private market that will cost in the high five figures even if they can get it are fooling themselves. If you think resentment by screwed-over private sector workers towards not-yet-screwed-over public sector workers is ugly, wait till you see what happens when you have one segment of the elderly population that has Medicare and another that's paying $25,000/year for health insurance (if they can even get it).

But if you have a soul, you can't look at those a few years behind you on the continuum and feel any kind of relief, particularly people like Steven D. of Booman Tribune, to whom I've linked on a number of occasions and who posts about his own predicament over at What Used To Be Known As The Great Orange Satan Until John Boehner Took That Title Away:

The Republicans have a plan to destroy Medicare.

If enacted I will likely die an early death as will my wife.  

A little background: I have a chronic autoimmune disorder that forced me to retire from my profession over ten years ago.  The drugs I take each year (and I take mostly generic versions of those medications) cost roughly $5,000 last year.  With insurance, the amount I paid for those drugs cost about $1,200.

My wife is not so lucky.  She is a pancreatic cancer survivor (since 2006) who, as a result of the chemotherapy drugs she received, suffered permanent brain damage.  The details regarding the cognitive problems she struggles with are described in this post at Booman Tribune for those who are interested.  She is also a Type 1 Diabetic since the cancer and cancer treatments effectively destroyed her pancreas.  The drugs she takes for her health issues are much more expensive than mine.  They cost roughly $16,000 last year of which we paid roughly $4,000.  

>My wife, as a fully disabled person who receives SSD benefits, was shifted to Medicare A for doctor visits, etc.  Her drugs (as are mine, my daughter and my son), however, are still covered under the group insurance plan of her former employer.  The cost of those premiums is roughly $7000 per year and we pay the full amount.  Though the premiums have increased each year (roughly 5% give or take), we manage.  In this we are fortunate, since if we had to buy individual policies for health care the cost would be much higher.

In New York, where we live the average cost of an individual family health care plan in 2009 was a little under $14,000, but due to my wife's chronic condition (Type 1 diabetes and organic brain disorder), my chronic autoimmune disorder, and my daughters' chronic ADHD condition and anxiety disorder I suspect the cost of an individual health care plan for our family would be significantly higher if we had to purchase one on the open market in 2011.  

At present, including the costs of insurance premiums, drugs, dentist visits, doctor visits and other forms of medical treatment for our family we pay out of pocket roughly 21,000 per year.

Neither my wife or I will turn 65 before 2021, when the Republican voucher system would go in place and also at which time the eligibility age for Medicare would be raised to 67.  As an aside, I don't know what would happen to us at 65.  I can only assume our health insurance from my wife's plan would terminate but we would not be eligible for vouchers, leaving a two year gap.  I am presently 54 and my wife is 52, by the way.

At 67 (or 65), my wife and I will no longer have the luxury of relying on her former employer's group health care plan.  Under the Republican plan to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a "voucher" system we will be screwed.  Whatever insurance plan we might be able to buy would either cost far, far more than the voucher provided to us or not be worth the paper its printed on (i.e., the deductible would be so high that the insurance would be essentially useless).  But don't take my word for it.  Here is what the Congressional Budget Office had to say about the Republican plan to kill Medicare:

Voucher recipients would probably have to purchase less extensive coverage or pay higher premiums than they would under current law, for two reasons. First, most of the savings for Medicare under the proposal stem from reducing the amounts that the federal government would pay for enrollees on a per capita basis, relative to the projections under current law. Second, future beneficiaries would probably face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare.

So we would have no choice.  We could eat or buy extremely crappy health insurance.  In the event of a health crisis, it is highly likely that the person with the health issue would die because we could not afford the cost of even barely adequate health care such as we have today.  Certainly that would be the case if my wife suffered a recurrence of her cancer, or my condition worsened from merely a chronic condition to one that is life threatening.  

At that point the only rational decision for either of us might be to forego any medical treatment and die so as to salvage whatever savings and life insurance payments for our children we can, who lord knows will need all the help they can get in the coming years of this century.  Luckily, we have some savings and some life insurance that could be passed on to our children if we don't raid it to pay for health care, shelter and food we could no longer afford.

If you can read about Steven and his wife and still feel relieved that you'll get yours, you'd better go find out what happened to your soul.

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