Welcome to the Medicare Consumer Blog

April 2, 2018

The Medicare Consumer Blog is a new weekly series of articles on a wide number of aspects about Medicare.

It’s written from an authentic consumer advocate view.  That means it’s focused on YOUR best interests as a person who has to deal with Medicare and all its complexities, choices, and costs.

We hope you will gain understanding about it, and probably save yourself money as well.

We’re not an insurance company, and we’re not the government.  That’s why we can tell you the truth about both of those:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

What was that about saving money?

For that, we’ll look at the different kinds of Medicare insurance policies that you can buy.   What are the pros and cons of each kind of policy?

How do you compare the cost and coverage of policies, to figure out which one is the best, most cost-effective deal for you?

How do you figure out what are the hidden pitfalls in an insurance policy – BEFORE you buy it?

Here’s your first clue:  You WON’T find the answers to these questions by looking at the insurance companies’ TV ads and mailings each fall.  Going to their Medicare workshops won’t help much, either.

Each insurance company has a goal of getting you to buy their policy and make a profit off of you.  Surprised?  I hope not.

The goal of this blog is to help you be a wise consumer, and keep you fully informed on important topics.

Chief among these is what you need to know to deal with Medicare for your own medical services and your own pocketbook.  That means dealing with two things:  (1) The government Medicare program itself – including its two main variations — and:

(2) All the other institutions that affect you and your pocketbook regarding this:  Hospital and doctor services and bills, prescription drug and medical equipment purchases and bills, nursing homes, and the insurance companies from whom you might buy a  policy to supplement your government Medicare benefits.

If you are like 90% or more of Americans, all of the above often seems wildly complicated, frustrating, and nonsensical when you have to personally grapple with it.  Are you imagining things?

Absolutely not.  The Medicare system has in fact become wildly complicated, frustrating and nonsensical.  We’ll explain the supposed “logic” behind many parts of Medicare that seem very illogical, and the realities.

We’ll also touch on many aspects of how Medicare is designed, how it works, and why it was designed the way it was and changed over time.  (Spoiler alert:  Politics and Big Money are involved).

Those topics lead to thoughts on how it could be made much simpler and easier to use.   We’ll delve into the big debates about the future of Medicare:  Is it going to run out of money, or not?

What keeps making it more expensive?  Will Medicare benefits have to be reduced in the future?  Which solutions help the average person, and which ones help special interests?  Who wins and who loses?

When we say “authentic consumer advocate view,” we mean three things:

First thing:  This blog is sponsored by the Minnesota Citizens Federation Northeast, which is a 43-year old grassroots, non-profit, non-partisan charitable organization based in Duluth, Minnesota.   It used to be called the Minnesota Senior Federation Northeast.

That helps explain why we know a huge amount about Medicare, insurance, and health care policy.

The Citizens Federation’s mission is economic justice, to benefit low and middle income people. We have a long and effective track record of working on public policy issues regarding health care policy and costs, efficient use of taxpayer money for health care, energy policy and rates, fair taxes, and fair wages and benefits for lower-wage workers.

Our work saves tens of thousands of people hundreds of dollars each year on utility bills. To help keep electric bills down, we’re pushing for clean energy – because it costs less, and it will help combat climate change.

We push hard to make health care more affordable for all in Minnesota.  We’ve also been effective in causing public dollars for health care to be used more efficiently, and catching the insurance companies’ bookkeeping deceptions.

Everyone is invited to help us continue doing this work, by donating to our organization.  At $30 per year or more, you will get our monthly newsletter, the VOICE.  If you’re interested, click here.

Second thing:  We directly help hundreds of consumers with their health care costs, in two ways:

One way is that we help low income elderly and disabled people in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin who have Medicare (but too much money for Medicaid) to get hospital and doctor bills reduced.  Learn more…

Our assistance is needed, because without it, many of these people would not be able to access available financial assistance.   Many would shell out $1,000 – $2,000 a more per year for an insurance policy needlessly, hurting their household budget.

The other way we help is with a program we have to enable people of any age and any income get brand name prescription drugs from Canada, at about half the cost of American prices, with a mail-order system.  We provide free price quotes, and then the person decides whether or not to order.

That can save a person hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.  Anyone in the US can use it.   Learn more….

Third thing:  This blog is written by Buddy Robinson, who is the Minnesota Citizens Federation Northeast’s Staff Director, and also the Co-Coordinator for our larger organization, called Greater Minnesota Health Care Coalition.

He has over 35 years’ experience in consumer health care policy advocacy.  Legislators and other officials have relied on his expertise and research.  He has educated thousands of people, over the years, on health care policy topics and details.

He is also one of about 50 health care consumer advocate experts who were picked by Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports magazine) to be part of a national network for joint training and discussion.

We have a long list of Medicare topics in mind, but we’d like to know what you are curious about.

So, please write a comment (click at top of this page):  What do YOU want to learn about Medicare?

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