It’s Medicare enrollment period and Humboldt County is now a target of both United Health and Western Health Advantage, a Sacramento-based, also for-profit insurance group. Between the two of them 14 upcoming “informational” meetings are planned in Fortuna, Eureka and McKinleyville to recruit seniors from traditional Medicare into a for-profit, “Medicare Advantage” plan. The plans offer low or no premiums and some help with dental, hearing and vision bills, even gym membership may be included.
But beware — Medicare “Advantage” is not traditional Medicare. These two groups are corporate health insurance companies that depend on profit to exist. This can put patient priority at risk. If you receive an invite from these groups, we recommend attending a meeting and cordially asking for details about accessibility and ultimate cost to taxpayers and traditional Medicare.
Read, for example: the opening paragraph in an April 29 New York Times article on MA: “Medicare Advantage Plans Often Deny Needed Care, Federal Report Finds”:
Every year, tens of thousands of people enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans are denied necessary care that should be covered under the program, federal investigators concluded in a report published on Thursday.
And check out the recent, Oct. 8, NYT article, “‘The Cash Monster was Insatiable’: How Insurers Exploited Medicare for Billions,” by Ableson and Sanger-Katz. Notably, Medicare was fraudulently overbilled by MA some $34 billion in 2018-19, according to a former federal health policy researcher from UC San Diego.
This January, privatization and deconstruction of Traditional Medicare is proceeding rapidly with the onset of other, MA-inspired programs that exceed even MA’s adept plundering of the Medicare Trust Fund. The 15% that MA is allowed to keep for profit and overhead will be expanded to up to 40% by new, ACO-REACH (Accountable Care Org.-Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health) programs. These are not only for-profit health insurance companies, but can be investment banks, venture capitalists and anyone with the wherewithal to invest and cash in on our Medicare Trust Fund. Recall that traditional Medicare operates on a 2% overhead budget with no profit.
Please join us for more details on how to protect and improve our current Medicare program.
Corinne Frugoni, M.D.
Co-Chairs, Humboldt Chapters, Health Care for All/Physicians for a National Health Program