Will You Destroy That Fax, Mr. Fox?

“I have reported your breach,” he said.

Excuse me? I tried to get him to explain. It was all very confusing.

360healthbystate_doc_m65993308We just came off COBRA. If you understand what COBRA means, my sympathies. Now our health insurance is through Anthem Blue Shield Cross.

We just got our first paper bill in the mail. It was addressed to me and some unknown woman. Helaine’s name is listed elsewhere where it should be, but not on the first page.

I called Anthem and worked my way through the phone tree. Awful. When I finally reached the end of the chain I was told there would be nine minutes more to wait.

Mr. Robinson answered. That’s a first. Last name only.

I explained what I’d received, but he was confused. I offered to fax it to him, “Attention: Mr. Robinson.”

It took a little time. He called back.

“I have reported your breach,” he said.

Excuse me? I tried to get him to explain. It was all very confusing. What breach?

Then he said, “Will you destroy that fax, Mr. Fox?”

It didn’t register the first time, but he repeated himself and he was emphatic. Now I understood.

Geoff: “HIPAA?”

Mr. Robinson: “Yes.”

I asked if we were on a recorded line and when he said yes asked if my insurance was valid. He said, “Yes.”

I have no idea what happened, but it wasn’t good. I expect paperwork is coming my way.

Now I Remember Why Ron Paul Is Scary

BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

I was very attentive during the first Republican debate. By Monday’s second iteration I was willing to be distracted. It wouldn’t have taken much more than a ball of yarn held in front of me. I was, however, attentive when Ron Paul talked about insurance and health care and death.

Here’s a piece of the transcript. It’s long, but it’s a reminder of why Ron Paul is scary.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. Before I get to Michele Bachmann, I want to just — you’re a physician, Ron Paul, so you’re a doctor. You know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question.

A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?

PAUL: Well, in a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him.

BLITZER: Well, what do you want?

PAUL: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not be forced —

BLITZER: But he doesn’t have that. He doesn’t have it, and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

PAUL: That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody —


BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

PAUL: No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals.


PAUL: And we’ve given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that’s the reason the cost is so high.

The cost is so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy. It becomes special interests. It kowtows to the insurance companies and the drug companies, and then on top of that, you have the inflation. The inflation devalues the dollar, we have lack of competition.

There’s no competition in medicine. Everybody is protected by licensing. And we should actually legalize alternative health care, allow people to practice what they want.

If I’m misreading let me know, but I think Paul is saying if you don’t have insurance your medical outcome is dependent on the charity of strangers. If no one steps up, you die.

I’m not sure that’s the society I want. No–actually I’m sure that’s not the society I want.

What I Wish The President Would Say

And then he should mention some names and tell them they should be ashamed of themselves.

President Obama speaks about health insurance tonight. Here’s part of what I wish he’d say:

It’s tough enough having a civil argument when people disagree, but it’s impossible when people are willing to lie. There have been many out-and-out lies told by people who know the truth but find it inconvenient in their opposition to health care reform.

And then he should mention some names and tell them they should be ashamed of themselves. That would be real leadership!

Universal Health – Less Simple Than It Seems

What are we going to do when employees of companies with good benefits packages begin to retire in droves, because they no longer need the one thing that kept them working – insurance

With a presidential election looming, there’s lots of talk from the candidates about universal health care. Actually, that’s the name if you’re for it. If you want to frame it as a negative, it’s socialized medicine… government mandated socialized medicine.

As Helaine and I talk more and more about what we’ll do after retirement, we realize some sort of health insurance is necessary. Right now, self financed health care for older Americans is ridiculously expensive, if you can get it at all.

We’re banking on universal care.

However, there are unintended consequences in universal health care – some good and some bad.

How will we keep our medical facilities from being inundated, if treatment is free? Should there be a limit on end-of-life care which prolongs life with little life quality? If so, who makes that decision?

What are we going to do when employees of companies with good benefits packages begin to retire in droves, because they no longer need the one thing that kept them working – insurance?

Some people have speculated about a huge wave of retirements at the US auto makers. There are other large institutional employers which will be hit the same way.

In some ways, this is a good thing. The allure of entrepreneurship will increase if a start-up comes fully equipped with insurance. Businesses, like that run by my sister and brother-in-law, might decide to go where the weather is better, if they would remain insured.

Universal health care as an abstract concept sounds pretty good. The devil is in the details.

My Parents’ Medical Care – Not Well

My sister popped up on IM tonight. I couldn’t hear her voice, but I could sense she was upset. I’m not sure how that works in a few short typed words, but I knew. I picked up the phone and gave her a call.

She had spoken to our folks earlier in the evening and was upset. By the end of the call I was upset too.

Their doctor… their internist… had decided to affiliate with a program called MDVIP. Basically, in order to stay patients of his they would have to pony up $1,500 per year each.

The $1,500 would buy them an examination and wellness program. The bottom line is, they would receive similar care, still paying for each visit under Medicare, at an additional cost of $3,000.

The physician said this would allow him to limit his practice to 600 patients. Well yeah! Because his end of the $1,500 is $1,000 ($500 to MDVIP). Six hundred patients is $600,000 per year, plus whatever he charges to be a physician.

My blood is boiling because I consider this medical extortion. To me (though probably not to our legal system) this plan allows doctors to charge more than they are allowed to charge under Medicare.

Maybe I’m too naive – a babe in the woods. Grow up! Get with the program, Geoff.

A few years ago, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida got involved.

Nelson has introduced legislation in the Senate, S. 1606, that would prohibit doctors who charge access fees from also billing Medicare for their services. “If this practice continues to spread, it could mean the end of Medicare,” Nelson said. His legislation doesn’t address people covered by private health insurance. It would be up to the insurer whether to allow doctors in its network to charge consumers such fees.

The fact, three years later, my folk’s doctor is doing this, says Nelson failed.

Maybe I’m missing something? I dropped a note to my doctor/friend, Steve. No answer yet, but I’m anxious to get his read on this. After all, he’s on the other side of the stethoscope.

The Envelope Please

I have two friends in Los Angeles who I’ve known since college in the late 60’s. They are both in ‘the business’. It is interesting to watch them operate.

They have both laughed at the fact that I have a job where someone pays my health insurance and I get a salary while on vacation. The fact that I work with a multi-year guaranteed contract astounds them (heck – it astounds even me).

I love to watch them both wheel and deal. I’m probably a little jealous. They’re in a world of make believe and pressure, with the hint of glamour.

In Los Angeles, it’s not unusual to root against a friend’s success. Isn’t that weird? Luckily, being an out-of-towner, I can be proud of their successes.

Last night, my friend Paul won at the 2003 DVD Exclusive Awards:

Best Overall DVD, TV Program (including all extra features): The Dick Van Dyke Show