The 2013 Medicare and You booklet is arriving in seniors' mailboxes the week of October 1 and the changes from 2011 and 2012 are not very extensive. In fact the cover still looks the same.
But if you feel the need to drink too much or get it on with someone your sexually attracted to while trying to wade through its 132 pages (not counting health plan listings, which are localized), Medicare now covers one "free alcohol misuse" and one "free" STD screening per year.
- Like a lot of the highly touted new-in-2012 "free" Medicare preventive screenings, the new 2013 "Alchohol Misues Counseling" benefit confuses me. It seems to be aimed at pregnant women1, which is not a big piece of the Medicare demographic. In addition to the screening, this benefit includes four "brief" follow-ups. ("Brief" stopovers at local watering holes -- "sure, I'll have just one" -- is how I use to drink before I went on the wagon 20 years ago.) This benefit looks like one of a series of "put a shrink to work" benefits.
- Ditto for the new preventive screening for chlamydia, gonnorrhea, syphilis and/or Hepatitis B vis a vis the Medicare demographics. It says it's for "pregnant people" (how's that for political correctness?) or for "certain people at increased risk for an STD." I'm jealous of someone my age (and it's not the over 65 pregnant person1) in that second category (depending on what "certain" means).
- More in my zone is the new benefit where I work with a shrink to get me to remember to take my aspirin everyday3 (really that's one of the new Medicare benefits). Aspirin will help me avoid a heart attack and make it more likely I will survive one. My PCP told me to take an aspirin a day 20 years ago and I still have to admit to him every year that I forget half the time. (Medicare will fix that? Wow! Thanks Secretary Sebilius.) Again, all I see is a "full time employment for shrinks" trend in these new 2013 Medicare benefits.
- Another new 2013 Medicare benefit, "Obesity Screening and Counseling," does not appear to be automatic even if you walk in with Twinkies in your cheeks. In one sentence in Medicare and You 2013, the book says Medicare "covers intensive counseling to help you lose weight" but in the very next sentence it says it "may" be covered IF... IF... Check this one out closely before bulking up. It looks like it's maybe a Weight Watchers membership (not that that's bad).
- And the final new "put a shrink to work" Medicare benefit actually gives you a "free" test for depression but the doctor's visit to take the test (or to be told to take the test I guess) requires a co-pay2. Who gives the "free" depression test? The receiptionist?
As an aside, PSA tests, though found to be very misleading, are still covered "free" by Medicare; the more important DRE is still also covered with the usual 20% co-pay2. Ditto for mammograms; however they worked before, they still work the same way from a Medicare point of view.
-- Dennis Byron
1Medicare also covers people under 65 who have been disabled for more than two years so perhaps a lot of them are alcoholic-dependent and promiscuous.
2 The co-pays should be covered by Medigap plans and these services should be part of Part C Medicare Advantage plan in some way I am not going to figure out unless someone asks me.
3 This new "Cardiac Disease Behavioral Therapy" Medicare benefit is not to be confused with the doctor's visit where he or she sends you to someone else to take a blood sample, then reads the results and prescribes a statin and/or an alpha/beta blocker if needed. Under that existing preventive benefit, the blood test is "free;" you still owe the doctor a 20% co-pay.