On Sept. 1, I made a transition from health insurance provided by my former employer to Medicare and a Medicare supplement. Perhaps my story has some relevance to the larger health care debate raging the past few months. Certainly it seemed so to me.
Enrolling for Medicare — and for Social Security benefits, both through the Social Security Administration — was easy. Whether on the phone or at the local Social Security office in Las Vegas, staff were competent, polite, and quick to offer assistance where needed. Official information in print or on the website was generally clear and easy to understand.
Choosing a supplemental insurance plan with a large private insurance company was, on the other hand, cumbersome and frustrating. Representatives on the phone typically could not answer my questions. Long holds while they consulted with supervisors were common. Printed information was frequently sketchy or confusing.
My experience confirmed some of my doubts about much of the (mis)information being spread about “the public option” and “single payer” plans in the current health care debate. The widespread stereotype that government is always incompetent, uncaring, bureaucratic, and inefficient simply was not borne out in my case. Rather it was the private insurance company that deserved to be so characterized.
I’m mystified by some of the ideologically driven lies about current attempts to reform the health care system. Remember, Social Security and Medicare, certainly two of the federal government’s most popular and enduring programs, were adopted under Democratic administrations and Congresses. Why shouldn’t we expect the same of current efforts to reform health care?