Saturday, December 18, 2021

Medicare Advantage? Uh, Maybe Not.

You can tell if something is a raw deal just by the way it is presented.

I wrote recently that a friend of mine went with an AARP supplemental insurance plan, which they felt was kind of expensive and didn't cover much.  I think he said he went with a Medicare Advantage plan instead.  I will have to ask him more about that.

A reader writes saying that some of these "Advantage" plans are no advantage at all and can have high out-of-pocket costs for expensive procedures, which could cause you to go bankrupt.  It sounds pretty scary.

I mentioned before that I was in a restaurant with eight televisions playing an infomercial featuring Newt Gingrich hawking a "home protection" plan to prevent someone from "buying" your house with forged documents.  As I noted in that posting, the plan really doesn't protect your house - they just periodically check public record to see if someone recorded anything for your property, which is something you can do yourself, online.

But the real "tell" on the whole deal wasn't in spelunking the fine print, but in just looking at how the deal is presented - like a carnival came to town:

Red Flag Number One:  Newt Gingrich? Using an older celebrity who is trusted by the elderly - a father-type figure who has nothing to do with the actual product.

Red Flag Number Two:  Infomercial? Selling something using high-pressure sales tactics.  It is like a timeshare presentation - if you watch it long enough, you may start to "believe" in it!

Red Flag Number Three:  Something-for-nothing or too-good-to-be-true?  There ain't no such thing as a free lunch and if bargains like that were out there, you would have heard about them before - not in some infomercial featuring a has-been celebrity.

Whether it is ol' Newt selling home theft paranoia, or Tom Selleck selling reverse mortgages, the deal is the same - you needn't analyze it too much, because just the way the deal is presented should tell you everything you need to know.  Serious business is serious business, not a carnival show.  When they rely on celebrities just to get your attention (and your trust) alarm bells should be going off in your head.

So, once again, at a restaurant, with only four televisions this time, I see an ad for a "Medicare Advantage" program featuring Jimmy Walker (talk about has-been washed-up celebrities!) hawking a medicare plan that pays you money and has no co-pays and lets you defy gravity and travel through time!  What could possibly go wrong with a health insurance plan touted by the former "Dyn-O-Mite!" guy?

And yea, he said it, twice, during the infomercial.  How pathetic when your entire acting career can be boiled down to one catchphrase.

But apparently they've roped in other has-been celebrities, including Joe Namath (he is still aliveI'm doing a Musk).  And the ads and infomercials haven't gone unnoticed.  According to one article, the company behind these ads has something of a checkered reputation and the plans are not all they are cracked up to be.

I needn't even read the article, though.  Am I going to trust my healthcare to Jimmy Walker?  Joe Namath?  Or any other celebrity for that matter?  Something as deadly (literally) serious as decisions on healthcare shouldn't be made based on who has the cutest ad on television, who has the most memorable jingle, or who has the best celebrity endorser.  What's next - health care promoted by Kim Kardashian?  Oh, shit, I just googled that, she already went there.

I still have about 24 months to make up my mind about Medicare Part B or D or C or X or whatever.  The learning curve is steep and there is little room for error.  For example, a friend of mine decided not to get the part D, which covers prescriptions as it was kind of expensive.  As a veteran, they decided to go with the VA.  It seems to work, but is a bit of a pain in the ass, having to see one doctor to get a prescription (under medicare) and then driving an hour to the VA hospital to see another doctor to get the same prescription filled.

Like I said, I am still learning about this, but they explained to me that if they wanted to get Part D coverage now, they would have to pay premiums back to the date of eligibility (age 65) which would be tens of thousands of dollars.  So, choose wisely my friend!

And don't choose a plan endorsed by a clown.

EDIT:  As they say on Reddit, "this blew up!"  I got a LOT of responses from folks and the common denominator is to take what older people say with a grain of salt - they are misinformed as well!

The penalty for not signing up for part D can be found here (thanks to reader for link!)

Another reader reports this merely increased their monthly cost from about $30 to $60.  Still affordable.

Medicare site for reviewing plans (I bookmarked this!):

My friend on "medicare advantage" is actually using a State-run plan for Maine.  Sounds better than what JJ Walker is selling!

Our friends in the UK are mystified - why do we have to make these complex decisions when we retire?  For them, nothing changes - you go to the doctor and you never get a bill, from cradle to grave!

WHY do we make 18-year-olds make life-changing decisions about student loans at a time when their brains are not fully formed?  Why do we make 65-year-olds make similar life-changing decisions at a time when their brains are starting to fossilize?

My enthusiasm for the way we do things here in America is waning.  Seems we make things incredibly complicated for no good reason.

Well, maybe one good reason:  The more complicated you can make any financial transaction, the easier it is to rip-off the consumer.   Maybe that's why we don't have single-payer health insurance. Too many people are making too much money, and they can afford lobbyists!

Geez, I am turning commie in my old age....