November 15 marked the first day in Medicare’s open-enrollment season, which runs until December 31. During this time, every Medicare beneficiary can choose the health plan he or she will use in 2008. In 2007, for the first time in history, virtually every beneficiary was able to select a Medical Savings Account (MSA) within Medicare.
This option has been completely ignored not only by the media but also by people who otherwise pay attention to these things.
The program isn’t ideal, and I would have designed it differently, as Phil Gausewitz and I described in our 2005 paper, “Bringing Health Savings Accounts to Medicare.” But the program is still a huge boon for beneficiaries because it eliminates the need for MediGap coverage, provides a way of paying for services not covered by Medicare, limits out-of-pocket exposure, and offers the opportunity to save up for future expenses.
If you or anyone you know is eligible for Medicare, you need to check this out.
To get general information on these MSA programs from the official Medicare Web site, go to http://www.medicare.gov and type in “Medicare MSAs” in the search area to access a booklet explaining the program, “Your Guide to Medicare Medical Savings Account Plans.”
To get specific information about what is available in your area you need to:
1. Go to http://www.medicare.gov, click the “Medicare Health Plans – 2008 Plan Data” link.
2. Scroll down on the left side to “Learn More About Health Plans in Your Area.”
3. Pick your state and click “View Plans.”
4. Once at that page, click “Select Criteria to Reduce Number of Plans Shown.”
5. Check the box that says, “Plans that are Medicare Medical Savings Accounts” and click the button that says “Apply Limits.”
6. There will be a list of the MSA plans that are offered in your area.
Source: “Medicare’s Biggest Little Secret,” by Greg Scandlen, November 16, 2007: http://www.chcchoices.org/publications/Medicare.pdf
Sincerest Form of Flattery
A new group has been formed in Ohio with a familiar-sounding name–Consumers for Health Care Coverage. But this organization is a front group for the Service Employees International Union, AARP, Universal Health Care Action Network, American Cancer Society, and other left-leaning organizations that want to mandate coverage and have the government–meaning fellow taxpayers–pay for most of it.
Unlike our little organization, this one will be extremely well-funded. When it comes to feeding at the government trough, it isn’t difficult to raise money.
Source: “New coalition enters statewide health-care debate,” by Catherine Candisky, Columbus Dispatch, November 14, 2007: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/health/stories/2007/11/14/advocate.art_art_11-14-07_b3_688fjjr.html?sid=101
We Get Around
At the 3rd Annual Consumer Centric Healthcare Congress in Arlington, Virginia in early November, I sat on a panel with Stanford University professor Alain Enthoven, during which I was able to tell him and the audience how he has misdiagnosed the problems in health care. Enthoven is still ranting about fee-for-service medicine, which he claims is the source of all the problems.
I explained that the thing that’s unique about American health care is not fee-for-service, but third-party payment (TPP). It is TPP that is the source of the problems–which Enthoven would exacerbate by requiring all Americans to have “comprehensive” health insurance coverage at all times.
Later, I was in a small meeting with Sens. Robert Bennett (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Wyden’s position was not surprising, but Bennett’s sure was. He said Republicans have to give up their opposition to universal coverage, adding, “You won’t like [the Wyden-Bennett bill to mandate individual coverage] because it isn’t pure.”
Purity isn’t the point–effectiveness is. As I told the group earlier (the senators weren’t on hand), mandatory individual coverage is the most cynical, disingenuous proposal ever offered in health care, because no one who advocates it actually believes it will result in universal coverage. Every one of them knows full well it can never be enforced.
They advocate it solely because it sounds good and they don’t have anything better to say. They use it for rhetorical window dressing and ignore the real damage such a law would do.
Greg Scandlen ([email protected]) is president of Consumers for Health Care Choices, based in Hagerstown, Maryland.
For more information …
“Bringing Health Savings Accounts to Medicare,” September 28, 2005, Consumers for Health Care Choices: http://www.chcchoices.org/publications/hsas%20in%20medicare.pdf