That’s What I’d Say I’d Tell You Everything

Have you ever phone-banked? I find phone-banking a bizarre experience. This is because I haven’t answered a ringing phone since 1994 and people who do seem like aliens to me.

My roommates in 1994 were both grad-student TAs. Their phone numbers were in the department directory and they did not want their students to feel like they had a teacher at their beck and call every time they could not be bothered to figure out something for themselves. So all calls were screened. For my own part let’s just say that this young musician was not exactly flush with cash. Nor was he keen to meet financial obligations that will render him unable to do the kinds of things that young musicians like to do. That makes it necessary to, if not go completely off the grid, then, let us say, cloak ourselves from the grid every once in a while. And people who wish to be transparent to the grid definitely screen their calls. (Before I had roommates, I just didn’t have a phone. Problem solved!) Furthermore, one of those grad-student roommates made the point that when someone comes to the door, you don’t throw it open and drag them in before you ascertain who it is on your porch. I found this very persuasive and I haven’t picked up a phone and said “Hello?” since Kurt Cobain walked the Earth.

When I phone-bank I am not surprised if an older person answers the phone. My father, born in the ’30s, has never understood why I don’t answer the phone and never has stopped objecting to the practice. Old habits die hard. (My technologically savvy mother never talks on the phone. We just text as the mood strikes us.) I am continually surprised at 1) People my age or younger who do answer the phone and 2) People my age or younger who have a landline. What?!

Here are the ladies dialing for Shayna for County Board District 8! Many potential voters were called. Cisco the basenji stole a piece of pizza. So it was a successful evening all around.

After the primaries, our federal Dem hopefuls will need office space and pizza to fuel their own phone-banking parties. And here’s how you can help. It’s the good old fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer








Medicaid news out West

First some good Medicaid news from Oregon via the AP:

Oregon approved taxes on hospitals, health insurers and managed care companies in an unusual special election Tuesday that asked voters — and not lawmakers — how to pay for Medicaid costs that now include coverage of hundreds of thousands of low-income residents added to the program’s rolls under the Affordable Care Act.

Measure 101 was passing handily in early returns Tuesday night. The single-issue election drew national attention to this progressive state, which aggressively expanded its Medicaid rolls under President Barack Obama’s health care reforms. Oregon now has one of the lowest rates of uninsured residents in the nation at 5 percent. About 1 million Oregonians — 25 percent — now receive health care coverage from Medicaid.

Oregon Live reports the measured passed by a significant margin:

Measure 101, which led 61 percent to 39 percent with returns partially tallied, was the only issue on the ballot.

This is a good revealed preference, along with the Maine Medicaid expansion vote that people value Medicaid.

Now one state over, Idaho is seeing some interesting news. Signatures are being collected to put Medicaid Expansion on the ballot. Public News Service has more:

Groups that want to expand Medicaid and cover 78,000 uninsured Idahoans have begun collecting signatures for a November ballot measure – despite other state level efforts to cover folks without health insurance…

To qualify for the November ballot, the initiative needs to get the signatures of 6 percent of registered voters in 18 districts – roughly 48,000 Idahoans – by May 1….

So if you live in Idaho, go talk to your neighbors and help out.



Expanding the electorate

Two pieces of good news today.

First in Florida:

And then in Michigan:

Open thread



To the phones

One last push, two more weeks, thirteen more calls to make to protect that ACA and our vision of a just society.

Right now Cassidy-Graham is chugging along with the hope that the need to do SOMETHING means that the last bill standing is SOMETHING.

We can do something about it.

Call your Senators today. If you are from North Carolina, Florida or the Upper Midwest, tell your Senators that you don’t want your state to get whacked to reward Texas’ intransigence. If you are not from those states, ask your Senators to vote for Alexander-Murray as the only health care bill.

Call your Governors as they would be handed an incredible mess.

Call…








Kids these days

I have incredible respect for those students. If I was 19 and standing there, I would have punched someone. The discipline and the courage to bear witness and hold onto their values without allowing themselves to respond to clear and constant provocations is incredible.

The kids are alright.



Bring out your problems: Medicare edition

From last week’s post on common problems that we all have with the health insurance system, it seems that Medicare is a major source of concern. I want to highlight a couple of questions and responses and then fill in as needed. After that, raise your new concerns in comments and we’ll figure things out as we go.

Let’s start with a common string of questions on Medicare supplemental plans using Peej01 as our jumping off point:

I’m not 65 yet, but I’m thinking that I should get a Medicare supplemental insurance plan when I go on Medicare. Can you explain the costs/benefits of those policies?

Barbara, an actual expert, replies:

For starters, go to Medicare.gov. There is a handbook that you probably already received but its on-line alternative can be easier to navigate. There is also a health plan comparison tool that allows you to plug in your exact drugs in order to personalize the comparison. It is my experience that most Medicare beneficiaries ask a threshold question of whether their doctor is in the network. For that, you might need to just ask your doctor. The comparison tool allows you to order results by premium, maximum out of pocket, etc.

MA versus Med. Supp. or some other kind of wrap around: The general perception is that if your employer is paying for an option, it usually ends up being a better deal, but you should do your homework. And no, I wouldn’t waive anything.

One thing to remember: for Medicare Supp, you are not underwritten when you are first eligible so if you think you want Supp, the best time to try it is when you are first eligible, because if you first enroll later, you will end up paying more.

The key point is that Medicare does not cover everything.

The biggest weakness with traditional Medicare and prescription drug coverage (Part D) is that there is no out of pocket maximum. This can be dealt with in four ways. The first is to be rich enough to self-insure. That works for millionaires who can pay the 20% coinsurance out of cash. The second is to never get sick or at least die very quickly. The two most common methods are to get a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) or a Medicare supplement.

Supplemental plans are a buy-up. They limit out of pocket expenses for people. The richest plans move Medicare from an 84% AV plan to a 99% AV plan. The least expensive plans put in a fairly reasonable out of pocket maximum and a few other benefits. At the linked guide book, you should look at page 7 and 11.

The important thing with a Medicare Supplement is that you only need it if you go the traditional Medicare route. I worked for a company that sold Medicare Advantage plans and in Pittsburgh that was a popular choice. Medicare Supplemental plans are worth considering if you think you will choose traditional Medicare.

Next from Stibbert:

Awhile back (when you were Richard), you had a friend FP about end-stage home hospice care.
Can you post a link to that thread?

Sure thing!

And if Cactus Prescott wants to write some more, I want to read and learn some more from him!

May 14, 2016 Hospice
May 21, 2016 Death the Final Frontier
End of Life Doulas

A good point from Mr Snub:

My wife had thyroid cancer (easily treated, in remission).

Part of the treatment required 2 injections which cost $1700.
Her endocrinologist office submitted the claim as medical and we would have been stuck with most of the cost.
My wife’s hospital job is in insurance so she told the endocrinologist to check the prescription benefit and we were able to get it for $100

So: why does the endocrinologist, who does this all day, every day, submit for the wrong coverage, or not submit for all coverages?

The short answer is that they don’t know. I’m working on a project right now that looks at the cost differentials of infusion instead of oral treatment pathways and there are some significant cost variances. But docs in most systems don’t know. More importantly, most of the docs have historically been told that their job is to get the patient better and not to worry about how the payment stream is categorized. This is a symptom of an underlying problem.

I don’t think there is anything nefarious going on; they will get paid $1,700 from either stream, it just matters if they are getting a big check from you or a small check from you plus a big fund transfer from the insurance company. If anything, they should prefer billing the pharmacy benefit as it gets them their money faster and more reliably in most cases.

Insurance benefit design is a mess. I spent a significant chunk of my working life in insurance and I get confused as to why a certain code is cross-walked into a certain benefit category. There are good operational reasons as to why this is the case but it creates massive complexity with only one insurance company much less the dozen or more insurers a typical practice could be dealing with.

That is what I have for this week… so tell us about your problems with insurance in comments and we’ll try to solve at least a few for next week.



Bring out your problems

Good morning.

We have big challenges but we’re not going to focus on those in this post. Instead we’re going to focus on smaller, more solvable challenges in this series of posts.

Do you need to know if your deductible applies to a preventative visit?

Are you getting a ton of mail about Medicare Advantage plans?

What does redetermination mean for Medicaid?

Or any of the 1,001 other confusing things about health insurance that we have to deal with every day no matter what happens in Washington.

Let’s be a helping community for each other. Put your questions and situations in comments. We’ll try to solve them and I’ll recap a few at the end of the week.