George Graham

Confusing News for Codgers

Not surprisingly, those troubling reports Americans have been hearing about Obamacare undermining the nation’s health insurance are mostly baloney. The political saboteurs and greedy insurers are doing their best to create shock and awe as part of a right-wing crusade to derail implementation of the new law but I’m hopeful their dirty tricks will be exposed in the end and all will be well.

Unfortunately, I am confused about the impact the law is going to have on us codgers.

I received a reassuring message from AARP in this morning’s emails. Here’s what it said:

If you have Medicare, you’re in a good position – under the health care law, your benefits could be better than before.

AARP pointed out that Obamacare rids us of the dreaded “doughnut hole” (which doesn’t completely close till 2020), gives us more free preventive care and fights Medicare fraud. But the message didn’t spell out the impact on a mysterious program called Medicare Advantage.

My understanding is that when George W. Bush and Congress added the prescription program to Medicare, they included a little-publicized provision creating a supplemental benefit plan that seniors could also opt to join.

I joined an HMO called Physicians United Plan (PUP), and I believe it’s paying most of my recent medical bills, including the nine days I spent in the hospital. The bills haven’t trickled in yet, and when they finally arrive, it will be hard to figure out just what they’re for. Still, it looks as if joining Medicare Advantage might have saved me a bundle. Keep your fingers crossed.

Now, I understand the Obama Administration has clamped down on the Medicare Advantage insurers, who had been granted a special rate that’s quite a bit higher than the regular Medicare scale. These insurers will now get the regular Medicare rate, and I can see how that will cut into their profits.

It’s not likely the insurers will decide to eat the loss. I bet they’ll take some (or all?) of it out of our hides.

Already, the AARP Medicare Advantage plans – provided by United Health Care – are cutting benefits and raising co-payments. And I’ve read that some insurers (Blue Cross Blue Shield, for example) are canceling their Medicare Advantage plans to replace them with costly alternatives. Is this because of Obamacare? Or are the insurers using the new law as an excuse to swindle customers? The right-wing propaganda machine is blaming President Obama of course – as it does for everything that goes wrong. We’ll have to wait and see what’s up, I guess.

So far, I’ve had no word from PUP on their changes (if any).

I clicked on the link AARP provided to try and figure out what’s ahead but it was one of those send-the-fool-a-little-farther setups where you have to keep clicking on one link after another, and I never could figure out what the future holds.

It seems that any kind of US legislation is so convoluted that it makes our heads spin. By the time the various lobbyists get through with it and all and sundry “stakeholders” are placated, the law is almost incomprehensible. And that’s before the bureaucrats concoct the regulations to enforce it.

Click here for the AARP site.

Click here for more on Medicare Advantage.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for