(For more on the national implications of health care reform on United States Medicare, and information on other Medicare issues, see theabcsofmedicare blog here.)
There is reportedly a strange ad running in the lightly contested Republican effort to unseat United States Senator Edward Markey of Massashusetts. Supposeldy the Republican's mother, who does not live in Massachusetts1 but in Pennsylvania, lost her Medigap insurance because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, better known as Obamacare).
But how can we know because the Republican refuses to give the press the details that back up his ad.
- The mother might have lost her gap insurance not because of PPACA but despite it... if she just moved to Pennsylvania from some other state and tried to buy Pennsylvania Medigap insurance after her move. A major fact that the Obama administration does not emphasize about PPACA because of its War on Seniors is that despite the fact that PPACA eliminated pre-existing-condition underwriting for people not on Medicare, PPACA did not extend that protection to Medicare subscribers who want to buy a private Medigap supplemental policy. (Almost everyone -- over 95% -- supplements Original Medicare in some way because it is terrible health insurance.) But if the mother just moved to Pennsylvania and could not buy Medigap insurance there, she could have kept the Medigap policy she had from her previous state of residence.
- But if the Republican's mother has lived in Pennsylvania all along, she should not have been affected by this pre-existing-condition shortcoming of PPACA. There would be no new underwriting because she already had the Medigap insurance. So why did she lose her insurance (if she did lose her insurance)?
- The Republican's mother could have lost group retiree insurance as many GE retirees in Pittsfield did recently. Many people on Medicare think (correctly) of their retiree insurance as gap insurance. If this is what really happened, she lost her insurance because the group (e.g., a former employer) decided to make a change, not because of PPACA.
- Her gap insurance company might have just stopped doing business in Pennsylvania. If the latter was true, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance web site, the Republican's mother would be able to buy one of about 20 other private Medigap policies with no effect on her doctors (if a doctor takes Medicare, he or she has to take any Medigap plan) as long as the mother acted in a set amount of time (around two months).
- There are different rules for disabled people on Medicare.
- And we in Massachusetts also have expensive Medigap insurance relative to the rest of the country
- And there is no option in Massachusetts to buy a Medigap policy with catastrophic coverage or an annual out of pocket spending limit under Medigap, both of which are not available in traditional Medicare itself (and which is why you buy insurance after all).Nor can we buy a Medigap policy with a health savings account option, an option available in many other states.