Topic: People (329)

Medicare Part C - The “C” Is For Crap

Part C is really for sh*t but that word does not start with a “C.”

Part C is really for sh*t but that word does not start with a “C.”

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• Topics: People, People, People, People,

Have you had enough? Enough mailers? Enough TV commercials? Enough emails? Enough phone calls?

There is an end date, December 7th, at which time the “open season” for Medicare Part C, AKA Medicare Advantage, will be off the shelf. Like a deer after hunting season, you, the Medicare recipient will no longer be raw meat for insurance industry hunters, aided and abetted by your own government - Congress and the executive. That is, until next year. Those who will have signed up for the Advantage scam will eventually be eaten by the private insurance companies like the elderly's purported champion, AARP (formerly the risibly named American Association of Retired Persons. It should be renamed the American Association of Insurance Scams, AAIS).  

“AARP has been reaping the financial benefits of its own Medicare Advantage plan, which it has been offering in partnership with the for-profit insurance giant UnitedHealthcare since 2003. Starting in 2021, AARP also launched a lucrative partnership with the major Medicare outsourcing firm Oak Street Health, which is a participant in the ACO Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (REACH*) program that privatizes Medicare benefits for seniors without their consent, as reported by Kaiser Health News in June.” 

So says Matthew Cunningham-Cook in an article in Jacobin entitled “AARP Is Welcoming the Privatization of Medicare.” The notion that AARP is looking out for the best interests of its membership is laughable.  Cunningham-Cook goes on to say: 

“On one hand, AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, collects enormous amounts of revenue from Medicare Advantage insurers to supplement huge executive salaries (the nonprofit’s CEO made $1.3 million in 2020). On the other hand, the organization is expected to advocate for the best interests of their 38 million members — and the 28.4 million Americans now covered by Medicare Advantage plans, or nearly half of all Medicare beneficiaries.”

I am not just picking on AARP. Even my life-long insurer, the “exclusive” USAA (United Services Automobile Association), which ensures only military members and their families, has come aboard the Medicare Part C - Advantage bandwagon. To its credit, USAA also offers, Medigap insurance which is what prudent Medicare recipients ought to be looking for.  This from USAA:

“A Medicare Supplement plan is also called a Medigap plan. That's because it helps fill in the gaps in Original Medicare coverage. Unlike a Medicare Advantage Plan, a Medigap policy isn't an alternative to Medicare Parts A and B. Instead, it adds to those benefits. Medigap plans typically come with higher premiums than Medicare Advantage Plans but may have lower out-of-pocket costs. If you're enrolled in Original Medicare, you can choose a Medigap plan from a private insurer. Plan benefits work with any hospital or doctor that accepts Medicare.”

With Medicare Advantage people become trapped. Fancy stuff will be dangled in front of Medicare recipients: gym memberships, zero premiums, cash back into your Social Security check, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,  (like in this TV ad). It is all an attempt to entice Medicare beneficiaries into a disadvantageous program. Don't believe me? Watch this video regarding Medicare Advantage produced by Protect Medicare, an offshoot of Physicians for a National Health Plan - PNHP. The video will explain the bait and switch. Here is the rub described by Project Medicare: 

"Commercial health insurers and their investors have been profiting off the Medicare program long before Direct Contracting and REACH*. The so-called “Medicare Advantage” program allows these famously wasteful companies to administer health benefits for seniors and people with disabilities. It is likely that over half of Medicare beneficiaries will be under a Medicare Advantage plan in 2023.  

"By nearly any measure, Traditional Medicare is a better deal for patients, doctors, and taxpayers. Beneficiaries may pay lower premiums up-front, but they can be burdened later on with high cost-sharing, narrow provider networks, and outright denials of care—burdens that they would not have to bear if they had enrolled in Traditional Medicare."

So if you have had enough, PNHP has some suggestions for you to help fight back against Medicare Advantage, which is draining the Medicare coffers to the advantage of only company stockholders and management. First of all, don't get snookered into Medicare Advantage. Look for Medigap policies such as mentioned above. Second, in the document under FILES below are some suggestions for action from the PNHP President Dr. Susan Rogers. Remember, the current administration continues to push these privatization programs. Let them know that privatization of Medicare is not an option for the future.  

*See the following article describing the REACH program: “Medicare Direct Contracting Scam Renamed ACO REACH”

Attached Files

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Comments by Readers

David A. Swanson

Nov 28, 2022

I would argue that Medeicare is aleady privatized. There is no national health care system beyond the Veterans Administration and possibly a few other federal organizations such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I have never run into a health care professional who works for Medicare when I have sought medical advice or treatment; rather I have only run into health care professionals who work for corporations or groups (and only a very few in private practice. It strikes me that a medicare advantage plan is simply another version of the privatizatiton that already exists. Am I missing something?

As to AARP, I am not surprised it “welcomes” advantage plans, esp since United Health Care (with which AARP has what appears to be an exclusive and somewhat murky arrangement) has gone to this area of “privatization. Here is what Wikipedia says about AARP

 

“....

Approximately seven million people have AARP-branded health insurance, including drug coverage and Medigap, as of April 2007[needs update][41] and the association earns more income from selling insurance to members than from membership dues.[42] In 2008, AARP began offering new health insurance products: an HMO for Medicare recipients, in partnership with UnitedHealth Group; and a PPO and “a high-deductible insurance policy that could be used with a health savings account” to people aged 50–64, in partnership with Aetna.

While AARP is not an insurer, it allows its name to be used by insurance companies in the sale of products, for which it is paid a commission.[43]

In a November 2008 editorial, The Des Moines Register and the Canada Free Press called AARP a lobbying group masquerading as a non-profit, meanwhile charging high membership fees and selling expensive private health care plans.[44]

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in 2008 that the “limited benefit” insurance plans offered by AARP through UnitedHealth provided inadequate coverage and were marketed deceptively. One plan offered $5,000 for surgery that may cost two or three times that amount.[45]

.....

According to the group’s official history, AARP evolved from the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA), which Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus had established in 1947 to promote her philosophy of productive aging, and to promote health insurance for retired teachers. In seeking group insurance coverage for retired teachers, Andrus was rejected by dozens of private insurance companies,[10] which at the time deemed adults over age 65 to be “uninsurable.”[11] In 1955, Continental Casualty Co. agreed to offer coverage to retired teachers in New York State. The experiment was a financial success, and three years later, the NRTA Health Plan was expanded nationally. In 1958, Dr. Andrus created the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) as a sister organization to NRTA. Through membership in AARP, the general population age 55 and older gained access to the insurance benefits previously limited to former teachers.[12][13][14] Dr. Andrus continued to run AARP until 1967, when she died of a heart attack at age 82.[15] Today, the NRTA is a division within AARP.[16]

Other sources offer an alternative version of the group’s origins. 60 Minutes reported in a 1978 exposé that AARP had been established as a marketing device by Leonard Davis, founder of the Colonial Penn Group insurance companies, after he met Ethel Percy Andrus.[17] According to critics, until the 1980s AARP was controlled by Davis, who promoted its image as a non-profit advocate of retirees in order to sell insurance to members.[18] AARP severed ties with Davis in 1979 and began dropping Colonial Penn products. AARP sought competitive bids for insurance coverage and in 1981 chose Prudential Insurance Company of America to underwrite the group health plan for AARP members…”

 

We live in the world center of Chicago School capitalism. How could medicare not be privatized? When you look at it, everything “public”  is privatized in varying degrees, sometimes obvious, sometimes not so obvious. Higher Education Institutions such as the UW, WSU, and WWU, went from being state-supported to state-assisted to state-located.  Money runs politics at the federal, state, and local levels. There are charter schools and “vouchers” at the K-12 level.  Privatized prisons, contract employees at various levels of Government. Outsourced military operations  by Constellis (formerly Blackwater).....

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Dick Conoboy

Nov 28, 2022

 David,

Thanks for your valuable addition to my article in the form of comments.  I agree overall with your assessment, however, there are still those in Traditional Medicare who may be “saved”.  The privatization can be reversed but it will require an enormous push, worthy of Sisyphus.

In 1998 I spent a year working with then VP Al Gore’s National Partnership for Re-inventing Government.   The big efforts were for busisness process re-engineering and contracting out government functions that were not inherently governmental, e.g. cafeteria workers, fleet mechanics, cleaning, building maintenance (electric, plumbing, etc.) ...

Contracting that began as a money saving gambit (largely retirement and medical benefits for the workers) has morphed into what you described with private military, prisons, police, education, fiscal and human resources… ad nauseam. 

Thanks for the opportunity to add Clinton and Gore to the list of privatization wizards of the Neoliberal Order, a tradition carried on by presidents (all) who followed. 

 

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