A Hefty Hike In Medicare Costs

Happy New Year, I think, because for my wife, Denby Fawcett, and I it means Medicare Part B and dental care on our dime instead of those glorious years of an employer paying, which ended when she retired from KITV last month.

I guess plenty of you MidWeek Kaua’i readers have been through it and wonder how we got into such a complicated mess while so many other Western countries’ seniors experience no mess at all.

We’ve just enrolled in Part B, C and D through Kaiser Senior Advantage. We’re not on our last legs, so we can make do with the basic program. Uncle Sam deducts $115 a month each from our Social Security.

But if we need hospitalization, it will cost us $250 a day for the first eight days, $29 for a doctor visit, smallish co-pays for generic medicine – big ones for non-generic.

That’s just for 2011. It’s adjusted every year.

And it’s only tax deductible if it meets 7 percent of adjusted gross income, which includes your SS and mandatory IRA withdrawals beginning at age 70 1/2.

That’s a pretty hefty test.

We could pay $22 a month for Kaiser’s dental and glasses coverage, but that’s just teeth cleaning, some X-rays and glasses every two years. So we’re dumping the glasses (buy “readers” at Longs) and going on COBRA with Hawaii Dental Service at $60 a month for two for 18 months. Then we’ll have to pay much more. Many dental insurers will not take people over age 65. HDS does and limits dentists’ fees; most outside insurers do not. All seem to have at least a year waiting period for major work if you’re a new sign-on. So your hit could be pretty big for early-on periodontics.

Kaiser’s good about providing almost every preventive test your doctor wants at no charge – that’s smart – and as an unrequired extra, it pays for membership in a fitness club. I might even get fit because it’s free!

So beware. As you get older and are not a Hawaii government retiree, you’ll find that medical care is costing you dearly as your money dwindles. There are co-pays for just about everything and certain to increase. Your basic Part B Medicare is guaranteed to go up.

Auwe!

We Americans blew it by not going for all-out national health insurance, everybody in, and a single payer. Would our doctors flee? Of course not.

Who else would pay them more? Canada has national health insurance. I guess they could all move to Monterey, Mexico, and practice in bullet-proof vests.

Anyway, if you thought retirement would be a piece of cake, it won’t be, medically speaking.

Save plenty of money or go on Medicaid – which the federal government seems intent on trimming.

Or keep working at any full-time, employer-paid-medical job until they bury or cremate you.

Save something for that, too.

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