Monday, November 27, 2017

Forget Christmas -- 'tis health care insurance selection season

It's that time again.

Christmas season. Or holiday season if you are a damn liberal like me who doesn't believe in saying "Merry Christmas" to every Tom, Dick, and Donald I meet. I even like the new Starbuck's Christmas cup that shows two cartoon women holding hands, at least that's how paranoid Evangelicals see it.

More importantly, 'tis the season to Make A Decision on Health Care for 2018. The U.S., in its wisdom, has the most screwed up health care system in the world and bound to get worse with Trumpists making the rules. Our family has a triple layer of coverage from private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. Cash, too, in the form of deductibles and co-pays.

For most of us out here who live amongst Trump voters in Flyover Land, the situation is made worse by indecision. The Republicans sabotage Obamacare in any way possible because they want to totally wipe out any sign of an African-American president. Trump's Ministry of Truth will soon create an America that is all-Trump all of the time.

Meanwhile, the American people are left in limbo. Will the ACA remain or will it be dismantled bit by bit since Repubs can't seem to muster enough votes to kill it outright? This affects millions.

I am 66 and my wife Chris is 61. I am on Medicare and she is not, covered instead by my allegiance to CIGNA via Wyoming State Government, my former employer. I pay $1300 a month to keep my CIGNA policy for me, Chris and daughter Annie, who is younger than 26, the cut-off date in family insurance created by Obamacare. For me, Medicare is primary and CIGNA is secondary. \Once I meet the deductible, I am covered like a blanket through my investment in Medicare and private insurance.

Let me pause here and say that I have no quarrel with CIGNA. While corporate-fueled insurance is expensive (must pay stockholders and CEOs a princely wage to afford those gated communities they are building for the apocalypse), it provides great coverage. When I inconveniently suffered a heart attack on Jan. 2, 2013, I ended up paying less than $1,000 for a bill that totalled $150,000, when you factored in ambulance, ER, oblation, stent, a week in telemetry and great cardiac care at CRMC. That summer, I received an ICD courtesy of  Syrian ex-pat cardiologist Dr. Obadah Al Chekakie. Since I already surpassed the $100,000 threshold, I paid spare change for a Made in the U.S.A. gizmo that monitors my heart 24-7 and sends results to master control at CRMC. It also includes a defibrillator which can kick me back into life should I ever experience Sudden Cardiac Arrest, which is as bad as it sounds.  My heart needs this assistance because it suffered damage during the long-term 100 percent blockage of my LAD artery, the so-called widowmaker. At a recent funeral, a long-term heart patient said that he had never met someone with a LAD who lived. I was pleased to hear that. I am pleased to hear almost anything. Except Trump is on Twitter again -- not that.

Chris is a diabetic so she benefits from plans that guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions. That could go away too. So she's worried that the ACA will go away along with all of its guarantees and she has to shop for health care on the open market which may not cover a diabetic. I am worried with her, as Medicare is three-plus years away for her and we will have the clowns in the White House and Congress during that time. A dangerous time.

This brings us to our daughter. She is 24. She has been in and out of mental health treatment centers for 11 years. With some exceptions, most care was covered by CIGNA. You think our health care system is a mess? Just try to figure out the mental health care system. Annie, fortunately, moved to Colorado and got on the state's Medicaid program and when I received Medicare, she did too. So she is covered. Republicans threaten her coverage. One saving grace is her Colorado residency. It's a blue state south of our very red border. Not too far-fetched to think that we will have health care refugees in the near future, diabetics and cardiac patients and the mentally ill leaving their backward red state to find sanctuary in places such as Colorado and Oregon and Massachusetts. Canada, maybe even Mexico. Wouldn't that be ironic?

I am a retiree with a pension. Half of that goes to health insurance. In 2018, Chris will be covered by ACA and Annie will be covered by Medicaid/Medicare. I will be covered by Medicare and CIGNA. All of these programs (except for CIGNA) are in the sights of Congressional Republicans. They aim to reduce or eliminate these programs to give tax breaks to their corporate masters. We no longer live in a democratic republic but an oligarchy. It will truly be a country run by the rich for the rich if all of these lame-brain actions come to pass.

So it's decision time. You make the best decision you can under the circumstances. I have to remember to be thankful for what I have as there are millions who suffer from inadequate health care or none at all. Those ranks are certain to grow in the next few years. So be thankful -- and fight like hell to stop the Republican assault on "the general welfare" of the U.S. and its people.

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