There has been some reporting of the situation facing the HMOs that contract to take Medicare payments to cover seniors. I would hope for much more reporting and for statements from candidates in the next few weeks. I believe that after the first of the year there will be only two HMOs left in Snohomish County offering Medicare coverage.
The situation, according to a staff person in Sen. Patty Murray’s office, is an “unintended consequence” of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. At that time, average Medicare costs per senior for various parts of the country were established. Washington state came in very low. So when the HMOs in Washington contract to offer care to seniors, they get Medicare payments that are radically lower than the contracted payments in other parts of the country. The staffer in Sen. Murray’s office said that “they are working hard to correct this” (whatever that means), and that the senators and congressmen need to know that people are concerned.
The lady in my insurance company office told me that my company, which is doubling its monthly premiums in Washington, is the same company that is offering prescription drug benefits and no monthly premiums in California. My Medicare payments are the same as everyone else’s; my insurance coverage should also be the same.
Only by hearing from a whole bunch of voters will changes to the Balanced Budget Act be made. Please write Congress, candidates, newspapers – anyone you think can cause change.
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