Who would have thought an apparently neutral organization like Consumer Reports would be spreading misinformation about Medicare (and RomneyCare), apparently for some political reason given the way that all the misinformation slants left. A recent article on the Consumer Reports web site, picking up on the drumbeat of "Romney didn't take Medicare" musings seriously misinforms Consumer Reports readers.
The article is seriously misleadng to all U.S. senior citizens, with some particular misinformation for all Massachusetts residents. It's hard to believe so much misleading information could get packed into such a small article.
The reality is that although it is widely reported as fact that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney "turned down" Medicare upon turing 65, there has been no announcement I've seen from Romney relative to the particulars. The devil is in the details.
- If Romney did not pay into (or pay enough into) Social Security over the years, it would make sense not to take Medicare Part A. It costs $450 a month if you did not pay into SS more than 5 years and it is terrible insurance: (no catastrophic coverage, no coverage if not admitted but only observed, no outpatient coverage, no coverage outside U.S., high co-pays for skilled nursing, up to $6000 a year in deductible payments for hospital visits, and more bad benefits). That may be the simple explanation but we don't know the details--seniors need to know how bad Original Medicare is as insurance and that they might actually have to pay for it. (This is particularly an issue for Massachusetts seniors of Romney's approximate age who worked all their working lives for state or local government.)
- Romney is a long way from worrying about getting or not getting his S/S (assuming he didn't start collecting early and assuming the court ruling Consumer Reports mentions is upheld or Congress does not change the S/S law to allow opting out). Romney does not reach full retirement age for another year and does not have to start collecting until he's around 70--seniors need to know they have this option and it will not affect their Medicare and not have Consumer Reports misleading them because of left-wing zeal.
- If Romney can stay on some typical employer plan (not the McDonald's mini med thing) or his wife is an "employee" of some family entity or other, it is most "likely" not true that Medicare is better insurance. In addition to all the problems with Part A described above (and of course A is "free" only if you don't count all the Medicare taxes you've paid for 40 years), even with Medigap, Part B and Part D there are no vision, dental, or annual-physical benefits, there are still lifetime caps and geographic restrictions, and there is the infamous Part D donut hole (it only affects about 8% of Medicare beneficiaries but the effect is very costly for those in the hole compared to a typical non-Medicare private employer plan)--seniors need to know this and Consumer Reports is not telling them the facts
- [Relative to Consumer Reports' little side trip into RomneyCare at the end of the short article, the author does not make it clear that Massachusetts seniors do not have the option to do this once they reach Medicare age. The Romneys are now separated under Massachusetts health care law if they want to buy insurance outside of a private employee or retiree group plan. Also, although Massachusetts insurers cannot rate for health factors, they can and do severely rate for age, which basically has the same effect. I further question Consumer Reports' statement about there being a "generous plan" available using a Belmont, MA zip code--where Romney lives. My guess is that the author looked on the Massachusetts Connector Authority web site and used the "as low as" premium without looking at all the policies in the different bronze/silver/gold categories. $1500 would only get the Romneys a run of the mill mid-level bronze policy from one of the namebrand insurers and possibly severely restrict where Ann could go to the doctors for her condition. (As a sidelight, it is probably a better deal for a couple where both spouses are below Medicare age that wants to buy insurance individually in Massachusetts to buy it separately.)]
- Consumer Reports did not describe the Part D penalty correctly. According to CMS Medicare and You booklet, "... the late enrollment penalty is calculated by multiplying 1% of the "national base beneficiary premium" ($32.34 in 2011) times the number of full, uncovered months that you were eligible but didn’t join a Medicare drug plan and went without other creditable prescription drug coverage. The final amount is rounded to the nearest $.10 and added to your monthly premium. (the base number and the premium changes annually.)" However the Part D penalty does not apply if you get Extra Help (20%-25% of Medicare beneficiaries).
- Relative to the Part B premium penalty, Consumer Reports did not indicate that the rules are different depending on whether a person's or a person's spouse's employer has less than or more than 21 employees
Again, it was really hard for Consumer Reports to get so much bad information into such a short article without wanting to.