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Corporate Welfare in the Medicare Program


Fri, Dec 5th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

How would you like to have a health care insurance plan that allows you to help pay for your neighbors' healthcare insurance plans? That includes neighbors who have six figure incomes. Welcome to the world of Congressmen who succumb to the blandishments of the insurance industry or who still believe private industry can always do things better than government.

The plan that you need for this is standard Medicare and your neighbor needs to have a Medicare Advantage Plan.

Medicare Advantage plans have been around, in some form or other, since the seventies, but up until George Bush gained the Presidency and the Republicans controlled Congress, they have generally been a bust.

These plans were originally sold as a way to control costs because everyone knows private enterprise is so much more efficient than the government (think General Motors, AIG, Lehman Brothers, well you get the idea). Originally these private insurance plans were paid 95% of the traditional Medicare costs on a county by county basis for each enrollee. Almost all plans were what were called, euphemistically, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO).

Both patients and healthcare providers quickly tired of the red tape and limitations of HMO's. HMO's quickly found they could not provide coverage to match Medicare and still make any profit. Patient, doctor, and HMO have parted company by mutual agreement.

The insurance industry lobbyists' soon stepped in to change the reason for having these things in the first place. They convinced the Congress to authorize increased payments and more lax over sight to boost the number of private plans and private companies involved. They turned the program entirely on its head.

Now we have HMOs, PPOs, Special Needs Plans, and Private Fee for Service Plans. Less than 20% of all Medicare enrollees are members of such plans.

Pay attention now. The catch is the other 80% pay for, on average, about $1200 per year extra for these folks to be on these plans. They pay about $108 more per year for their own traditional Medicare and the Medicare fund is out the rest. Conspiracy theorists believe this is part of conservative Grover Norquists plan to "starve the beast" by bankrupting Medicare as soon as possible.

Of all the plans listed above PPOs (preferred provider organizations) are the most expensive at 119% of traditional Medicare. Fortunately they are also the plans with the lowest patient population.< .....
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A Time to be Thrifty

Fri, Nov 28th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Because I was born in southwest Iowa in the very middle of the Great Depression, and have never been even moderately wealthy, some of my favorite places to shop are the Salvation Army stores, Saver's, Saint Vincent DePaul, and the Depot. Having grow ..... 
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Meet me in the poetry section

Fri, Nov 21st, 2008
Posted in Commentary

I must confess, I was a nerdy little kid. I didn't much like other kids; they always wanted to play outside, go to the park, and organize teams and clubs. My family forced me to answer the door when kids came to play, and made me go outside at least ..... 
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Political ruminations on Southeast Minnesota agriculture

Fri, Nov 14th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

As American families sit down at the supper table these next few weeks and chew over the collective political decisions we made in the voting booth this year, can we also take a moment to ruminate on agriculture?

It's a good time to realize ..... 
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Change is more than a word

Fri, Nov 14th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

It's over. The long, long, long campaign for the Presidency is behind us. The run for the top spot seemed to be a lifetime in length. Now we can relax. Or, can we?

The lightness of spirit many felt immediately after the election has been te ..... 
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A view from the other side

Fri, Nov 14th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Over most of my adult life, I have been a faithful follower of politics with my own strong held opinions. I've grumbled at times in disgust with some policy decisions and/or personal actions of people serving in public office at various levels.
< ..... 
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McCain can show how bipartisanship works

Fri, Nov 7th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

The election is now one for the history books. The pundits and party faithful of both sides are busy analyzing and rationalizing the results.

McCain was correct during the campaign - he is not George W. Bush. No matter who was elected chang ..... 
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Changing the Subject

Fri, Oct 31st, 2008
Posted in Commentary

The holidays are coming. I can tell by the weather and the fully stocked shelves of canned pumpkin. Here we will be again, driving to an event with all those relatives that we love and carrying our lists of topics not to mention. You know, John and ..... 
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A Christian looks at politics and government

Fri, Oct 31st, 2008
Posted in Commentary

When I listen to and look at today's political campaigns, the first thing that stands out in my mind is the question: "Doesn't anyone know the Golden Rule'? That way of assessing one's own words and actions isn't even exclusively Christian. The tene ..... 
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