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Wed Dec 21, 2011, 08:07 PM

They Just Pulled the Plug on Medicare and Tricare

I don't know whether to cry or scream.

The MSM is treating it as an afterthought. "House votes "no" on tax cut and unemployment extension. (Oh, and by the way, the nation's health care safety net for the elderly, disabled and military retirees has just crumbled....)" The House, which tried, unsuccessfully to abolish Medicare by voting for the Paul Ryan Bill this spring, has just pulled the plug on the nation's biggest, most beloved public insurance program by failing to cast a vote for another bill. The Republicans won't even talk about what they are doing to Medicare. All they will say is that the Senate did not provide enough tax cuts---

And that is why the New Year is going to be a very unhappy one for the nation's seniors, disabled and military retirees.

January 2, 2012, your mom has been scheduled to get her cataract surgery for months. Her eyesight is poor, which limits her mobility. She has fallen twice, because she can not see. The last time, she stumbled over her sleeping cat and fell down the porch. The doctors said it was a miracle she did not break anything. She is in good health, except for her bad eyes and her weak bones. She wants to stay independent as long as possible. That’s why she decided to get her cataracts fixed. They are going to do the right one first---

Correction, they were going to do the right one first. That was before the House voted not to stop the scheduled 27% reduction in Medicare provider fees on January 1, 2012. Now, your mom’s eye doctor is rescheduling all the elective surgeries he performs for Medicare patients, in hopes that the provider fees will go back up sometime next year.

Tell Mom not to worry. If she stumbles over the cat again and breaks a hip this time, the orthopedic surgeon will pin it back together. Doctors will continue to perform urgent and emergency surgery for Medicare patients, the same way they do them for folks who have no insurance at all.

January 2, 2012, you and your spouse get your healthcare through TRICARE, the federally funded insurance for military retirees. Good thing, too, because your employer outsourced your job to India, and now you work for minimum wage and no benefits. You were lucky to find a provider in your area. Lots of doctors have opted out, because of low reimbursements. You are due for a check up in January. So is your spouse---

Unfortunately, you get a letter in the mail. Your doctor is no longer going to accept TRICARE. The 27% payment cut is too steep. She is very sorry. She will continue to treat you for emergencies for 90 days, while you try to find some one else who will accept you as a new TRICARE patient. You call to see if she will change her mind if Congress restores TRICARE funding. Her office manager tells you “Sorry. TRICARE payments are too uncertain. Have you considered getting on private insurance.?”

Of course, you have considered getting on private insurance! But you are too old. You have high blood pressure and diabetes. No one in your old field will hire you, and no private insurer will write you an individual policy. Good thing you have a car. You may be driving a long, long way to see your new doctor.

January 2, 2012, you and your family have been seeing the same family doctor for decades. He delivered both of your babies, back in the days when he still did OB. He saw your kids through chicken pox and croup. He was there when your husband had his stroke. He took care of your blood sugar in the hospital after they did your breast cancer surgery. He was there for you during the bad times as well as the good.

Last time you talked to him, he said he had no intention of retiring. However, today you are informed that he has changed his mind. He will be retiring as of April 1. No, it is not an April Fool’s joke. His accountant says that he will be losing money if he keeps his practice open, now that Medicare has cut its payments to physicians by 27%. No, even if Congress fixes things in February or March, he will not change his mind. Medicine is too uncertain now. It’s better if he retires.

January 2, 2012, you receive your Medicare card in the mail. Finally! Now, to find a doctor who accepts your insurance. Knowing how hard that can be, you did your homework. Your county medical society provided you with a list of doctors in your area who are taking new Medicare patients. You get out your phone and start calling. And you discover that the list from December, 2011 is no longer up to date. Every single office you call tells you the same thing. “The doctor isn’t taking new Medicare patients. Sorry.” A few of them aren’t taking Medicare period. They offer to see you if you will sign a “private contract” in which you agree to pay the doctor out of your own pocket and not to rely upon Medicare to pay your bills. What the hell? For the past two years, you have been paying for your own health care out of your own pocket. That’s why you haven’t had a mammogram or a diabetes test or even a visit to check your blood pressure. How is Medicare any different from no insurance?

Is John Boehner having a merry Christmas? I know that the nation’s seniors, military retirees and disabled are having a very, very unhappy New Year.

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Wed Dec 21, 2011, 08:14 PM

1. For TRICARE Recipients

This may not be as big an effect (I Am a TRICARE recipient as a retiree). Many retirees and their families live near a Military Treatment Facility and get the majority of their care at those facilities. This is still pretty outrageous though. There needs to be low cost alternatives for EVERYONE.

At the risk of pissing everyone off, I pay 460.00 per year for TRICARE coverage for myself, spouse and children. I am unaware of any employer provided (even at your cost) coverage that would even touch this. EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the United States should be able to get coverage for this price or lower.

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Response to NavyDem (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 21, 2011, 08:17 PM

2. Urban dwellers will be better off than rural Americans, that is certain.

Urban areas have public "charity" hospitals which provide care for people with no insurance, so they will be able to provide care for people with half an insurance policy (which is what Medicare will become).

Urban areas have military bases with government physicians.

I worry about folks in the suburbs and (especially) the country.

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Response to NavyDem (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 21, 2011, 11:00 PM

6. Not really

We live "close" to a Military Treatment Facility that isn't accepting new patients, and hasn't for years. I agree everyone should have the coverage we have, though.

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Response to snpsmom (Reply #6)

Wed Dec 21, 2011, 11:10 PM

8. Good point

I live in San Diego, which has a very large MTF, and didn't have any problem getting in (of course that may have been entirely due to the fact that I was already in at that MTF while I was active duty).

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Response to NavyDem (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 22, 2011, 07:56 PM

13. got a tricare notice yesterday, said it was going up at the same rate as

retirement pay or social security. Did not pay much attention, hubby takes care of those things.

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Wed Dec 21, 2011, 08:19 PM

3. i can't find where they voted no.

did they? or are you taking their refusal to act on the bill as a vote against it? everything i have heard and read leads me to believe that there is still a glimmer of hope.

but if the disgusting republicans in the house don't do anything it won't just be medicare recipients suffering. long term unemployed and those of us already just scraping from one check to the next will be fucked.

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Wed Dec 21, 2011, 08:25 PM

4. The only consolation is that there are many Republican voters who will also be affected.

And, as we all know, Republican voters are wired very differently from us: They generally lack empathy, making certain issues hard to understand until it directly hits them.

Great post, as usual, McCamy.

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Wed Dec 21, 2011, 09:56 PM

5. So who/what scheduled the 27% cut? (nt)

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #5)

Thu Dec 22, 2011, 06:26 PM

9. In what legislation was it hidden and why was it signed into law? Good questions. /nt

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #5)

Thu Dec 22, 2011, 06:36 PM

10. It was never meant to be 27% at once...

...Medicare has been on a schedule of payment reductions that has been bypassed year after year. Now that the bypassing hasn't happened for this year, the cumulative reduction of those years takes effect: 27%.

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Response to TCJ70 (Reply #10)

Thu Dec 22, 2011, 07:34 PM

11. Thanks; sounds like, if the system wasn't dysfunctional, they could have fixed it

so that, even if no new rise is agreed, or they think some reduction is needed, it doesn't suffer such a large drop.

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Wed Dec 21, 2011, 11:07 PM

7. I'm still betting that they pass it on Friday

 


So it can be a Friday news dump on Christmas' Eve Eve.

They have no choice but to pass the Senate bill. Not to do so would be political suicide.

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Response to Motown_Johnny (Reply #7)

Thu Dec 22, 2011, 09:43 PM

14. The MSM is giving them cover. Hardly mentioning Medicare.

They may hope to create a Medicare panic on January 1 and claim "Obama could have averted this disaster with an executive decree. Obama is the one who is killing Medicare."

Recall that the press first tried to blame Newt's shutdown of the federal government on Bill Clinton. Only later did people realize that it was Newt's idea.

If they succeed in shaking people's faith in Medicare, they will fulfilled the private health care industry's wishes, and they will get big fat Super Pac checks next fall that will enable them to buy lots of airtime claiming "Obama killed Medicare!" And the press will back them up.

Anyone who says this could not happen was not paying attention in July when the WaPo started the Big Lie "Obama wants to abolish Medicare" based on no evidence---and DU bought the lie hook line and sinker.

Watch the WaPo carefully. If the House does not act before Christmas and the cuts are going through, the WaPo will be the first to start suggesting that Obama created the crisis, not the House.

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Thu Dec 22, 2011, 07:37 PM

12. My dad is a military and DOD civillian retiree who depends on Tri-Care and loves being a Republican

 

maybe this will wake him up finally...

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Thu Dec 22, 2011, 09:52 PM

15. Boehner says they will pass a two month doc fix.

http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/medicare/201095-boehner-agrees-to-two-month-doc-fix

The doc fix will never lapse, because as your post describes, Medicare would be completely destroyed.

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