On July 24 I addressed the disgrace of our national health care system. It is currently ranked as the worst of any industrial country. We are ranked 37th in the world, even below Columbia! But that is only part of our health care challenge. The other problem is our health insurance coverage. Yesterday, I read a national article reporting that more and more physicians are refusing to treat Medicare patients because of the low cost of re-imbursement and the huge overload of paperwork. (Read it here.) So, for baby boomers, our health care system may be growing larger, but our access to care is growing smaller – and much more difficult.
At the same time, our problems with our health insurance coverage are growing worse, not better. I know that first hand. In April of this year I turned 65 and started Medicare. Registering and starting Medicare? That alone is a time consuming hassle. In my case, when I started Medicare, I notified my Orange County (California) Health Benefits insurance office. Of course, because I had been switched to Medicare, the rest of my family had to be switched into a specific HMO program. Unfortunately, the Orange County Benefits office sent me a family card for Blue Shield, not a card for the HMO. In short, they sent me the wrong card and failed to enroll us in the correct program.
Now, what is my nightmare? They left me, a physician (and my family), without any health insurance coverage for 4 months. Just yesterday they realized their mistake and began retro-billing me over $4,000 for that nonexistent coverage. Worse, I had to pay cash for the medical treatment of family members for the last four months. But we saw physicians who are not part of the HMO group, so I will receive zero reimbursement for those services. In summary, I have paid for health services which will not be covered; and I will be billed for coverage that was unavailable and (practically speaking) nonexistent.
If this nightmare can happen to me, a physician, it can happen to you. In fact, it is happening to millions of people across this country. We can hope that their errors are not intentional, but are all of their mistakes truly accidental? After all, that is how an insurance company makes money – billing you for health coverage and then making that health coverage difficult (or impossible) to access. For the consumer like me, it is a nightmare. For them, it is profit. Sound familiar?
So, what is the answer? The same solution as mentioned in my previous blog and as addressed in my book, The Boomer Survivor Kit . As we each grow older, we have to assume control of our health. We have to make the right choices with our eating style and our exercise, so that we can avoid (and even reverse) major illness. As the leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer, and physician error, we need to improve our health and decrease the risk of disease. We need to escape from our own health care coverage or it will kill us. Are you interested in learning how to avoid these diseases? How to avoid our health care system? Or are you going to simply wait for your personal health care nightmare?