Looking Old
Reverse Mortgages – Part 2: The Basics

Health Cost Fears

[EDITORIAL NOTE: LC, who blogs at Retirement Daze, has sent in her photo for the Where Elder Blog feature. You can see it here. And you can find out how to submit a photo of your own blogging place here.]

category_bug_journal2.gif According to a recent survey, 73.6 percent of women and 44.1 percent of men use the internet over other sources to research their aches and pains. The women say they have grown frustrated with trying to see their primary care physicians; men say they don't know how to describe symptoms when using the internet. (Men reading this – you'll have to explain that reason; I sure can't.)

Here are some other, more specific findings:

  • 85.1% women and 50.1% of men don't even think to call their doctor when they think something is wrong

  • 90.6% of women and 75% of men believe trying to get in to see the doctor is a waste of time

  • 81.5% of women and 71.6% of men think seeing their doctor will be too expensive even with insurance coverage

  • 71.3% of women and 64.2% of men say hidden costs and fees not covered by insurance keep them from seeing their doctor

Also, women who turn to the Internet before or instead of consulting their physicians said they are comfortable doing so because they aren’t looking for answers to life-threatening illnesses but rather, information on general aches and pains.

The percentages are astonishing – much higher than I would have guessed. According to Tamer Elsafy, CEO and founder of Flexcin:

“Although the Internet doesn’t replace your doctor, I think these results speak to the fact that both women and men are very frustrated with the healthcare industry. If you have general aches and pains or a case of the sniffles, people today are more inclined to research the Internet rather than wait several days to see a doctor and then pay the high cost of prescriptions.”

[This survey was conducted by Flexcin International, Inc. which, according to the email about this survey, is “a manufacturer and marketer of leading natural supplements that provide joint inflammation relief.”]

Oddly, given the kind of supplement this company deals in, the 1,034 survey respondents, equally divided between men and women who live in 10 U.S. states, were age 35 to 60. So none of them has experience with Medicare.

Nevertheless, the survey is useful for elders too. I realized that it's been years since I've consulted a physician for anything other than an annual checkup. I use community or local government programs for my annual flu shot and because I haven't found a primary care physician here yet, I used a nearby drop-in clinic when my eye got itchy, red and swollen enough that I believed it needed professional attention.

Since I've never tried, I don't know what the wait time might be to see my (Medicare) physician about an immediate problem. But unlike the survey respondents, thanks to Medicare, I have never feared the expense or hidden fees of seeing him or her.

After four years of Medicare coverage, I can no longer imagine living with the worries the survey uncovered. These are just one good reason we still need to work toward a single-payer health care system.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Lighted Windows


After six months in my new home it's time for me to refill my prescriptions, but I'm having no luck so far finding a doctor who accepts my insurance .(Tricare, but they also say they aren't accepting new Medicare patients.) The U.S. healthcare industry has been a big disappointment to me.

I just found out that my doctor is joining other doctors in a MD VIP plan and if I am to keep him I must pay an annual fee of $1,500. In three months I will have to find another primary care physician. I have been with this doctor so long he knows me and remembers all of my past ailments. I am devastated.

I believe more and more doctors are going this route, thanks to the politicians cutting the reimbursement for primary care physicians in Medicare and Medicaid.

Our system is getting worse instead of better. If it weren't so cold I think I would consider moving to Canada.

Well I fail into the survey demographic, I'm 59. I'm in California and use Kaiser. So far, I have no major complaints about the access to doctors but then I rarely see one. My wife on the other hand is a more frequent user of the system and she does get frustrated with the phone tree she needs to navigate to get an appointment.

All that being said, my complaints are cost versus usage and the general uncertainty of access for the long haul. I agree that we should have a single payer system. The easiest thing we could have done is to implement medicare for all. Single payer works in Canada, UK, the European Union and Japan. Even Taiwan has a better system than we do. Even after the health reforms finally kick-in we will have a system that is to expensive and complex.

I have a question I'd like your collective input on.

A friend's brother was unexpectedly diagnosed with a stage-3 cancer. She's having a fundraiser for him. She also just joined the Facebook group, "304,059,724 against Obama's Healthcare takeover."

I'm torn between sending her $20 for the fundraiser, and not sending it. If she doesn't want a national healthcare system, and I do, should I support a private fundraiser?

Believe it or not, this is bothering me; I feel torn between compassion, principle, and anger.

Hi Mary...

I understand your conflict about this. My first question, however, is: have you asked your friend about her logic discrepancy?

I have a bunch of other questions too:

If she doesn't want a national health care system, are private fundraisers her solution for each of us to pay for our medical care?

Does her brother not have health coverage? If he does, can he and/or the family not afford co-pays?

My questions notwithstanding, I think that the brother's need should supersede your friend's political beliefs. If you want to contribute because you know the brother or in support of your friend's work to help him, do so.

Mary, I would try a bit of education with the friend, explaining what the health care reform actually does. As for the donation, that is a personal issue that you need to separate from the political issue. We often do contradictory things in our lives.

Those who can't understand that the industry desperately needs reform are often the same ones suffering from it. They don't get that private practices and corporations are in business to make money, not take care of our health. We need to return to a system that actually is interested in providing everyone with adequate health care, regardless of their ability to pay.

I live in rural Ohio. Hardly a week goes by that there is not some fund raiser for someone who is ill or victim of an accident in the three or four nearby small towns. Every gas station, drug store, hardware, and carryout has a jar by the register for your donation to "help Johnny's family with his medical bills". This is a sad way for a nation to care for one another.
Need I say this is a very conservative part of the state.

Ronni, I'm a man and I use the internet for almost all of my health care information. Then again, I was a Navy Hospital Corpsman in a previous life and I'm well able to ask the right questions. I enjoy being able to talk to the doctor as a near equal. I also enjoy knowing what he or she means when they talk to me about my body. But, I must agree that most of the men I know are completely ignorant of how their bodies work. And men don't like to appear ignorant, so they avoid any situation which would reveal that ignorance. Same thing happens with men refusing to admit they are lost while driving...Wouldn't you think a man with a college degree would have some familiarity with basic male anatomy and physiology? My basic A&P class took three weeks. Using the internet, you could probably do it in a week now.

Darlene: That is simply awful about your doctor. Can't you talk him out of this in your case?
I was very reluctant to join Kaiser, but now I'm glad I did. Chances are they'll keep me, if only to do their studies on. What I get and what I die of.
It's funny, but just this a.m. I was talking to a woman who said at the luau she attended, the waitpersons and entertainers gave all their tips to a young cancer victim. How nice, and yet wouldn't it be nicer if this young person could get the treatment he needed without these poorly paid service workers giving away their much needed tip money?

We are always having fundraisers here in Ashland, Oregon, considered an artsy, highly educated town, for locals who are ill and need community help to meet medical bills. Sigh. What a country we live in. It is pretty sad.

I try to avoid even THINKING about how disappointed I am with the lack of a single payer plan in the health care reform. I'm 58, a widow, and had Cobra as long as possible. Then I switched to the state (Alabama) health care plan for those with pre-existing conditions. Basically, the premium was costing me an arm & leg, plus being useless. It was "catastrophic" coverage -- you don't even want to know how bad it was. I'm on a pension and do some freelance writing for income; the premium was destroying my financial stability. Finally, when I knew there would be a fed pool for those like myself to get health care coverage (privately, paying for it myself, pre-existing acceptance) via the health care reform, I had to drop the state plan for SIX MONTHS to be eligible for it. I'm about two months out, and hoping I make it till November when I can apply...it should be set up by then (Alabama opted out of handling it as a state, instead the feds will set it up, THANK GOODNESS!) There is a saying here in Alabama: "Blue Cross/Blue Shield owns people." They have a monoply on the private health insurance, and pretty much do whatever they wish.

On a positive note, I've found that my anger/stress level about the whole medical insurance issue disappeared when I dropped coverage. I can afford to pay for a doctor visit, even some tests and prescriptions monthly for what I was paying as a premium. If I end up in the hospital for whatever reason, then I can never pay for it -- ergo, everyone else will in one way or another. I will lose my home, what little savings I have and my late husband I were debt-free since the age of 35! I don't like what has happened in my case, but I think I am one of millions who have had to make this difficult decision.

I do use the internet for researching medical problems, but also I've found that a lot of things I would normally run to the doctor for resolve themselves with a few home remedies.

My husband and I belong to a large healthcare cooperative that is active throughout WA state--in parts of Oregon, too, I think, but I'm not sure. We have a wonderful retiree plan that supplements Medicare (I keep my fingers crossed every year that it won't be canceled). There's no co-pay, no deductible, almost 100% coverage except for glasses and hearing aids.

It's a DREAM plan, and on top of the obvious financial advantages, we feel that we get excellent quality care. There's rarely more than one day's delay to see our primary care physician, and there's a consulting nurse available by phone 24/7. We may have to wait 2-3 weeks to see a specialist or for certain tests, but that hasn't been a problem so far. Fortunately, we're relatively healthy for 80 and 73, respectively, and we do everything we can to stay that way. We try to use our healthcare plan wisely and with some awareness of cost, even though we aren't paying directly.

I fully recognize how very fortunate we are in these days of lost health insurance coverage, and I totally support the concept of "Medicare-for-all".

Kudos, Ronnie! We someone to ASK seniors, most would feel as you do, too.

As an FYI - another great benefit:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced a new website called HealthCare.gov. This new tool lets consumers take control of their health care by connecting them to information about quality, affordable health care coverage. HealthCare.gov is the first central database of health coverage options--from Medicare to the new Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan, with information from more than 1,000 private insurance plans. HealthCare.gov answers questions that relate to people with disabilities and health care, and also has information about insurance plans and community services in every state. Take a video tour of this new website.

For more information visit this link: http://www.disability.gov/health/news_%26_events.


Become a fan of Disability.gov on Facebook.

I was delighted when my Medicare kicked in so I could have decent care. I now am a patient at a medical foundation that includes some of the best doctors in our area AND I was able to get into the best group of endocrinologists in our city for my thyroid problems. After my experience with a local hospital's medical clinic, I feel like I died and went to heaven.

Both accept what Medicare pays so the only bills I get are from the hospital and they aren't a lot. I owe the latter from when I had no insurance so I pay a bit on that monthly.

I am blessed in that . . . so far.

Medicaid is administered by the States and it's a disaster here in Ohio and I have been beating my head against the wall with that for nearly a year.

Still I think I'm mostly fortunate.

Kay, and all ~

There is a totally new Medicaid now - not what it was before Health Reform passed, and the stigma once associated with “Medicaid” need not continue. The states are gearing up on it now - of course, it's a huge Bill. We're getting there - Big act ~ takes time to enact.

In June, Secretary Sebelius issued the Affordable Care Act information, too: (http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/06/20100607a.html), and the funding for increased health care professionals, including increased fees for primary care doctors: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/07/20100701c.html.

The DHHS budget overall 2011: http://dhhs.gov/asfr/ob/docbudget/index.html

For others, feeling affected by doctors not having their CMS fees increased, there was more to increasing physicians’ CMS payments and why it failed. Few people know about doctors’ contacts with CMS, and what each entails - they are drawn between the physician and CMS. As someone wrote to me, after just retiring from a surgeon's office "He's made a fortune off of Medicare and Medicaid ~ I lived it all this time." So, who knows?

If you need help, check www.benefitscheckup.com, and fill it out. Also, do not fail to talk to your own physicians if they are changing to a self-pay option ~ or reconsider them!

If you qualify (now or later) for a state case manager that will help. Many seniors qualify for something. Things are changing daily, so keep on checking.

If you are disabled, don't forget www.disability.gov too.

Buena salud.

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