Thursday, December 23, 2021

On UFT's Medicare Advantage

Like most people, the first thing I imagine when I think Medicare Advantage is Joe Namath and all the other C-list celebrities hyping it on TV commercials. I've also read quite a bit about people being stuck in plans that precluded seeing doctors of their choice. There's a great article in the Times that gives chapter and verse on that. Just the name grates on my nerves.

I would never, ever call one of those numbers on the TV screen. There's so much they don't tell you. It should be criminal to place ads like that which fail to tell the whole story. Ads for pharmaceuticals are required to mention side effects: death, suicidal thoughts...I never want to use those things after hearing about them.

This said, if I retire at year's end, I will choose the UFT's Medicare Advantage plan. There are a few reasons. One is that if I don't, I'll be paying almost $5,000 a year just to use standard Medicare. That's an obvious drawback. I'm not sure what else I could use that money for, but I'm willing to find out. 

A pivotal factor that neither Mulgrew nor his detractors seem to mention is that this plan, as yet, does not even exist. We can say this will happen or that will happen, but it doesn't mean a whole lot until it does or doesn't occur. I read that doctors will be paid the same as on standard Medicare, but they will need to sign onto this program. I also read that they're delaying until April to make that happen. The results aren't yet available. My hope is that whoever reps this plan will aggressively push it to as many doctors as possible. Not doing so would be, frankly, stupid and self-destructive. Regardless, it's very hard for me to see why any doctor would reject a plan that pays them the same as one they accept.

Like most teachers, I use GHI. I've had several experiences with doctors choosing not to accept it. One of my wife's doctors stopped, but kept on all existing patients. I had two doctors who rejected it and offered the chance to pay extra. I was going to keep my regular MD, but he suddenly started acting creepy and refusing to refill prescriptions. I found another who I like much better. Another stopped, and I started seeing a doctor I liked less. However, his practice came to their senses and took us back. 

I've been okay with GHI, even though I've sometimes had to wait for permission for tests. I understand that worries some people, and that's a valid concern. It's probably the best argument I've heard against this plan. I've had cancer, though, and permissions did not hamper my treatment at all. Another argument that I find persuasive is the one that we ought not to be part of expanding privatization. That resonates with me. 

After listening to the presentation at the DA the other night, I was not particularly impressed with any of the benefits I've heard Joe Namath talk about. The whole meals at home and transportation to doctor visits are things Joe loves to blabber over. And yet, the older we get the more likely it is that we may be in need of such services. Still, that Joe Namath thing. Were I Mulgrew, I wouldn't dwell so much on topics the TV hammers us with.

An argument of Mulgrew's that I found particularly persuasive was that of support for emergency medical visits in other countries. I was once with my daughter in Canada and she hurt her hand really badly. I had to take her to an ER on Christmas Eve, and that was no fun at all. I had to lay out a thousand dollars on my credit care for her to be seen. While the final bill was probably not up there with what an American hospital would've charged, it was in the thousands, and could have been substantially higher had her injuries been worse. Fortunately, Blue Cross covered her. All I had to pay was a $200 deductible.

I have already been concerned about how Medicare would work if I were in Canada, or some other country that would charge me. I'm very happy to hear that this problem would be covered by this program. In fact we have family in Canada and go there regularly. I know a Canadian guy who had a heart attack in NY, and who amassed hundreds of thousands in debt by having the poor judgment to do that on this side of the border. I'd hate to be in his position. One of my Canadian family members is in a union, and they insure him when he's in the states. The others have to buy insurance to come here. Under the UFT plan, I can travel without worrying about that.

Again, the program doesn't exist yet, so it's easy to list myriad reasons why it's horrible or wonderful. The truth is no one knows yet. I'll take my chances, and if it sucks I'll change. The fact is, though, that all but one of my current doctors take GHI. I'm hopeful the one holdout will take UFT Medicare, but only time will tell.

Given everything I've heard and read, I will opt into the UFT plan if I retire this year. While I'm sure it's not perfect, it's hard for me to believe all the criticism I've heard about a plan that, again, has never even been tried. I'm ready and willing to give it a chance.

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