Time for new insurance system

By Bob Balhiser
Independent Record (Helena, Mont.), Letters, June 19, 2014

Once you become eligible for Medicare you expect your health insurance worries will finally be behind you, right? Well, guess again.

Private insurance companies continue to play games with Medicare Supplement plans just as they have done in the individual health insurance market. Here is an example. I have a Medicare Supplement “Plan F” with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) at an annual premium of $2,282. When my wife became eligible for Medicare we began reviewing her options and discovered that BCBSMT offers a ‘Plan F’ for someone my age offering identical coverage at an annual premium of $1,755. Wow, a $527 annual cost difference for the exact same coverage! How could this be?

After noticing this discrepancy, I called to inquire about it. The agent said: “You are covered by a ‘Senior Blue’ plan, while the one now being offered is a ‘Simply Blue’ plan. Enrollment is closed for the ‘Senior Blue’ plan.” I was told I could apply (and perhaps be accepted) for the “Simply Blue” plan by providing my most recent three-year medical history.

What this really means is that with enrollment now closed for the “Senior Blue” plan, and with “healthy” people able to move into the cheaper “Simply Blue” plan, “Senior Blue” will become a shrinking group of increasingly older people who have more health problems. Obviously, this means that costs per individual in the “Senior Blue” Medicare Supplement will increase exponentially, which directly contradicts the “spread the risk” principle upon which Medicare is based.

Medicare was designed to level premiums for all people age 65 and older, regardless of health status. This is good because serious (and expensive) health problems can strike anyone at any time, especially as they get older. By “cherry picking” customers, private insurance companies do just the opposite. Seems to me that this is just one more good reason to phase out these parasites from our health care system and phase-in a system of Medicare-For-All.

Bob Balhiser resides in Helena.