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Guest Commentary: Medical insurance

Fri, Mar 22nd, 2013
Posted in All Commentary

By Robert and Monica Hatch, Lanesboro

Recently we read an on-line article that said a senior retiring at age 65 and living to a typical age of 85 should expect to spend $250,000 on medical expenses, including various premiums, for an annual bill of $12,500! That’s wholly ridiculous! Tossing those figures aside, most Medicare recipients know that $3000 - $4000 per yr. per person is a realistic average medical premium, for all parts. Then, we have the 20% out-of-pocket costs on hospital charges, plus copays. And, Medicare is senior’s only choice! Hmm.

Census information offers that individual average Social Security income is around $13,500 per year and senior’s next highest income source, dividends and interest, is about $7000 per year; $20,000 per year each. Heck, the average income of “all” those 65+, even those still working, is only a bit over $30,000 a year. So, if two people live at that average $40k retirement income they spend 15% - 20% of their income for healthcare premiums alone; $12,500 would be 31%! Over half of senior households actually live at “various income levels” below $30,000 per year while Medicare deductions from Social Security remain a “flat rate” with supplemental premiums in such a narrow range they also amount to another set of “flat rates”!

C’mon! Are we all 6Feet tall? Human nature and nurture are rife with variation! People’s incomes are all over the map, just like our other characteristics. Health care premiums need to reflect this reality and be “means tested”. Minnesota Care uses about 1.5% of household income per person to set its premiums. The $100 Medicare takes from Social Security is 1.4% for the recipient making $84,000 per year! Why isn’t that “percentage rate” good for everyone?

This system, designed by and for the medical-pharmaceutical-insurance complex and enacted by a congress they’ve bought, is not only unsustainable it’s inhumane and oppressive! It’s a hostage program! Details of The Affordable Care Act come out this October but so far we couldn’t find any new and encouraging insurance alternatives. One of us is on Medicare and we refused the medical supplemental programs due to these unreasonable costs! We’ve taken a page out of the corporate cost control handbook, seeking cheaper labor, service and components away from home, and found a clinic in Wisconsin to access more affordable medical services. They offer a “sliding scale” fee system based on income! We figure if US companies can take their business to China we can certainly go to Wisconsin.

We invite others to “stop cooperating” with the medical insurance status quo, to the best of their ability. Live actively, eat organically and seek lower cost organic and holistic remedies as well as lower cost provider alternatives. Speak out to insurers, doctors, clinics and congress. They’re people, not Gods! Place blame for costs appropriately! Our own habits are one factor. Also, the poor do not contribute to higher costs near as much as the 30% of costs from insurer’s overhead! In fact, a shameful part of our current national landscape is that bankruptcies from medical costs (60% of those being insured) are another of the complex factors generating poverty. If we don’t want a national single payer plan and believe in competitive free enterprise then recognize this medical system is neither! We all need to be healthcare entrepreneurs and seek every low cost alternative we can. Our motto is: de-link and de-stress! Be well!

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