Dec. 7 has come and gone. Medicare Open Enrollment has ended for 2023. Yet it feels like the engagement with me and Medicare has just begun again. So, if you have read this far you have taken the plunge into the river(flow) of life experiences which is Stories and Journeys. By the way once this column publishes, Stories and Journeys will be two years old. Here a few of my open enrollment take aways.
1. My need to determine if Minnesota Medicare Consultants is still my broker. Kristin K. wrote to me via tesha@longfellownokomis messenger.com about her not making contact with Leslee Gold at Minnesota Medicare Consultants (MMC). The only number I have for MMC is (952)935-4843. I tried it twice. Each time I was asked to leave my number and a brief message and somebody would get back to me. So far, no one has returned my calls. If Minnesota Medicare Consultants is no longer my broker than who is? Senior LinkAge Line (1-800-333-2433) would be a place to start for me if I needed a broker.
2. There ought to be a law. I have a dream that one day it will be illegal for Medicare Advantage Plans to market themselves using the name Medicare. Turns out that Mark Pocan representing the 2nd District of Wisconsin in the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced the Save Medicare Act H.R. 732. It would re-name Medicare Advantage (MA) to Alternative Private Health Plan program. Also, civil penalties would be applied to MA plans with Medicare in the title of their ads. There are 21 co-sponsors. One of them is not my Congressional District 5 Representative Ilhan Omar. I'm thinking it's time for me to communicate with Rep. Omar about being a co-sponsor because I have a dream.
3. The need to get educated about and engage as I am able with the Minnesota Health Plan and caucus in the state legislature. On the last day of Medicare Open Enrollment, I participated in a Zoom meeting of Health Care for All Minnesota (HCAMN) and Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP) billed as a winter update and a look to 2024. Two things have stayed with me from that meeting. First is the observation from Rose Roach, HCAMN Board Chair, that we have about five years to save Medicare from being overtaken by Medicare Advantage Plans. Second, looking to 2024 focusing on any Minnesota Health Plan legislation that comes up in the state House of Representatives and the activities of the Minnesota Health Plan Caucus. I learned that one of the leaders of that caucus is my state Representative Samantha Sencer-Mura, Senate District 63-A.
The Minnesota Health Plan is largely if not entirely based on the book "Healing Health Care: The Case for a Commonsense Universal Health System" by John Marty who happens to be a state senator.
4. Continue to deepen my understanding of Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare. I learn from the writing of Thom Hartmann in his "The Hidden History of American Healthcare: Why Sickness Bankrupts You and Makes Others Insanely Rich." I also learn from you, dear reader. During Medicare open enrollment Dave R., Dan M. and Lindagail R. told me their take on Medicare via email@example.com. From you, I am reminded that each of our stories and journeys is unique while at the same time there are common threads that enable us to learn from each other and find common ground.
For example one of the three above writers told me: "I learned about the difference between Medicare and Medicare (dis) Advantage through Christopher Westfall's You Tube videos. He is a true advocate for seniors. I've learned that Mayo quit accepting (dis)Advantage plans a few years ago."
Another writer told me that as a corporate trainer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN, he ".... saw first hand how the insurance industry markets itself as healthcare, which they are not!"
Another writer caught my attention with the words, "I'd like to yell it from the housetops. Don't abandon your traditional Medicare for Advantage! You'll be sorry in the long run."
In the meantime I invite me and you to keep telling our Medicare stories as they unfold. Tell yourself, tell others or tell me via firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you ever want to converse in person, I offer the following option. The last Friday of the month in January and February next year 10 to 11 a.m. I will at Turtle Bread, 4205-E.34th Street. I'll be at the table with the sign that says Elder Voices.
For now in gratitude always.
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