Joe & Linda SkinnerBEHAVIORISMSGrand Junction Free Press Columnists

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January 17, 2013
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THE SKINNERS: One depressing aspect of turning 65

HE SAID: This year brings a big change in our lives. When I turn 65 years old in a few months, I must sign up for Medicare. So, in my usual methodical way, I have begun to check out my options for supplemental insurance.I am devastated with the plethora of decisions and the wide disparity in price for the same coverage. Some companies reduce rates at the beginning of coverage and then, once you are locked in, the rates skyrocket. I have found the rates from our current group plan are more than double other plans. And, more worrisome, when I asked company representatives who owned the company they were promoting, many did not know.When I explained that it was an important question because a shareholder-owned company has a legal duty to run the business for the benefit of the shareholders, not the policyholders. With a shareholder-owned company, my interests would be second or third down the list of the things to consider by the company, probably behind CEO salaries. These companies usually employ a phone system that takes five button pushes to get to an overworked representative who didn't want to take time for my questions, but was willing to sell me something else. Employing customer service reps costs the shareholders money. I made calls until I found a policyholder-owned company that had live people answering the phones at the first contact.SHE SAID: At least you have the training to ask questions about the type of ownership. How about those of us who haven't a clue about what questions to ask? I am not sure it matters which company you have when you look at the medical costs.A recent bill I received showed a charge of $72.55 for six feet of plastic tubing and $27.12 for a piece of mesh-coated plastic that is supposed to be a filter. The insurance amounts allowed, of which I pay a percentage, $17.44 and $6.52, respectively, which seem more in keeping with the actual value of the products. The original amount billed looked like the stratospheric price of goods sold to the military in the past. I do not understand why the original amount billed is so high. Are there insurance companies or people that pay that? I can only imagine the wheeling and dealing that transpires between medical supply companies and the insurance providers in these price settings. I doubt the welfare of the customer is a prime motivation for the decisions.Regardless, I have paid much more money into the insurance company over the years than I have ever collected in benefits. Maybe they, like some car insurance companies, should lower the deductible for each year the full benefits are not used.So, my diatribe aside, were you able to get any good information with which to make your decision?HE SAID: Answers can be elusive, but I did find that the State Insurance Commission has a website that shows Medicare premiums for all companies for different aged people. The Medicare website has a place to plug your prescription information in and see all the rates of companies that would give you a policy. All of this won't help when the companies bill like you described.The purpose of insurance is to protect you from loss, but when excess billing occurs, the consumer, the taxpayer, and the profession all are losers. You can Google "Medicare fraud by drug companies" and see the hundreds of millions in fines that have been paid by companies who purposely tried to game the system. Several big name companies paid over $1 billion in fines since 2000. Their shareholders don't take the hit, and the CEOs are not fired, but I bet the rates went up.I looked forward to being helped by Medicare, but my research makes me believe all I have done is jump from the frying pan into the fire. Baby, you are right behind me!SHE SAID: It is sad that we cannot trust all players in the medical business to have our best interests as the heart of their business. It's sad, too, that the caveat "buyer beware" has to apply to something as important as our health. Shopping for after-65 insurance is like being trapped in the bad air in our current inversion. It's depressing.The Skinners hope your health is not compromised by the stress of looking after your health and insurance needs. They can be reached at

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 17, 2013 01:17PM Published Jan 17, 2013 01:16PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.