Archive for June 21, 2022

The Medicare morass

Posted: June 21, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized
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By Christopher Harper

As I head toward retirement at the end of the month, my wife and I have had to delve into the Medicare morass.

Simply put, Medicare is one of the most confusing bureaucracies I’ve ever dealt with. Since I used to report on government bureaucracies, I thought I would have some expertise in cutting through the weeds.

For the most part, I was wrong.

For those who have yet to head into the Medicare morass, I pity you. For those who have managed to get through the barriers already, I applaud you and also pity you.

Medicare, run by the Social Security Administration, is one of the most complex organizations in the country, providing some form of hospital, medical, and drug coverage for millions of Americans, most of whom are 65 and older.

Here’s my story of banging my head against the Medicare walls.

I wanted to sign up for Medicare coverage a few months before I retired, and that’s tricky. I was able to sign up for Medicare, but I couldn’t tailor our coverage until one month before I retired.

That’s when the voluminous number of letters and responses started with Medicare. It appears that the organization doesn’t know how to use email or other forms of electronic correspondence.

I had to file three separate letters to Medicare to convince the minions that I was retiring.

I then was told my Medicare costs would be significantly higher for my wife and me because I earned more than I should in 2020. I had to appeal that decision, convincing the authorities that my retirement in June would mean I wouldn’t make as much money. That took two appeals—another set of letters and responses—until I finally returned to the original Medicare cost.

Then I decided to obtain a Medicare Advantage program from a private insurance company to ensure my wife and I got decent coverage for health issues and drugs. It’s rather strange since we don’t have many health issues.

The number of Medicare Advantage programs is voluminous and complicated. I still don’t truly understand the drug formula, known as the “donut,”—which is supposed to make it less costly the more drugs you have to use.

Most of my doctors take Medicare, but my chiropractor doesn’t. He finds it too costly to get paid by the government.

Our dentist doesn’t take Medicare. In fact, only a handful of dentists in our area take Medicare, so we added an extra dental plan at $109 a month.

For the past decade, I have had a Health Savings Account, which allowed us to save about 25 percent in taxes on the money spent for copays and other approved procedures that insurance plans didn’t cover. That saved us about $600 a year in taxes.

Medicare doesn’t allow such accounts. Although Congress has tried to pass such measures, not much has happened.

During the 2020 campaign, most Democrats called for “Medicare for All,” meaning that everyone would be brought under the umbrella of the health program. Since it’s estimated that Medicare may go bankrupt in a few years on its present course, it seems evident to me that would be a bad idea.

I’ll report later whether Medicare works for my wife and me. But I’ve added a few more gray hairs and seen my blood pressure rise during my lengthy attempt just to get signed up for the program.

Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours-and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here,

C. S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters #7

The story concerning Bishop McManus decree that Nativity School in Worcester MA may no longer identify as Catholic has gone national and international.

I suspect that McManus who I know and is the Bishop of my diocese will get a lot of pushback from Massachusetts “Catholics” whose primary allegiance is to the left but there are two bits of the story that are rather significant that deserve to be amplified.

The first was this line which might seem throw away but I think is pretty big:

In March, Bishop McManus was made aware of the flags being flown over the Roman Catholic affiliated school and, according to the school, asked them to remove the flags.

He issued a public statement, and later a letter regarding the flags, after private talks with the school were reported on by the media.

In other words he was willing to deal with this privately. I suspect flags that said: “End Racism” and/or “God Loves Everyone” would have been perfectly acceptable, conveying the messages the Jesuit school wanted to advance without adding political context contrary to church teachings

But the “private” talks became public, almost as if someone decided to leak them in order to put pressure on the Bishop.

Remind you of anything?

The second came from the public statement Bishop made in his open letter to the community last month as he explained church teaching:

We believe we are created by God at the moment of conception, something science supports by the presence of a unique DNA distinct from the mother. We believe that we are all loved into existence by God and redeemed by the Christ’s dying on the cross and rising from the dead to make it possible to enjoy eternal life with God in heaven. We call that the “Good News.” We are stewards of our bodies but not owners to do with it as we please. So, while I must love my neighbor regardless of what they consider their gender to be, no one, including individual popes, bishops, or Catholic school teachers, can say that Catholic teaching can condone transgenderism, since that gender is a gift from God.

Which brings us to the issue of the flags at Nativity School. These symbols which embody specific agendas or ideologies contradict Catholic social and moral teaching. Gay pride flags not only represent support for gay marriage, but also promote actively living an LGBTQ+ lifestyle.  Others in society may say that is fine. Such people may be doing wonderful humanitarian work. But an institution that calls itself Catholic cannot condone that behavior, even though the Catholic Church will “go to the mat” in teaching we must love those with whom we disagree.

The same is true for Black Lives Matter as a logo. Because every human life is sacred, the Church is 100% behind the phrase “black lives matter.” However, a specific movement with a wider agenda has co-opted the phrase and promotes a 13-principle agenda for schools, which, I daresay, most people do not know about but is easily available on the internet. Similar to the gay pride movement, those principles include, in their own words, to be “queer affirming” and “trans affirming.”

The BLM movement also contradicts Catholic social teaching on the role of the family. To Catholics, the Holy Family is not just a quaint image. God the Son chose to enter the world as a child and be raised by a mother and a father (the Nativity). The BLM movement in its own words is “committed to disrupting the Western prescribed nuclear family structure requirement,” which is another clear example of an ideological principle that conflicts with Catholic teaching.

He ended this phrase with the key question to the Jesuits at Nativist school:

So to the Board of Nativity School, the question is simply this: Which identity do you choose? 

emphasis mine

You would think Jesuits would know this stuff and believe it but apparently not as the Jesuits choose the world and will be lauded by the world for it.

Bishop McManus is going to get a lot of grief over this decision in this bluest of cities in this bluest of states but apparently he knows his Gospel realizes that grief from the world is part of the job description for a prince of the church.

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.

Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me also hates my Father.

John 15:18-23

It’s nice to have a bishop who believes, but it’s sad to reach the point in the church where such a Bishop is a novelty and a sign of courage rather than the rule.