THIS IS AN aside. Maybe because I’m beginning with it, it’s an affront.
No, I intended no affront.
All I intended was to warn everyone that by the beginning of July, Information & Assistance will no longer be at 411 W. Washington St. in Sequim.
By July — don’t worry, we’ve arranged for fireworks, to celebrate our migration — we’ll be strategically relocated in the Sequim Village Shopping Center.
The actual physical address is 609 W. Washington St., Suite 16, in what many locals refer to as the old cop shop.
Phone numbers, email addresses and the friendly faces of genuinely decent people will all remain the same.
Maybe it’s because I write a lot of columns about Medicare, or maybe it’s just the fact that many folks feel an overwhelming need to express their mystified frustration about Medicare (and health insurance in general) to somebody who doesn’t have “do not reply” conspicuously attached to their email, but over time a rather considerable number of you have expressed various and sundry opinions on the matter of Medicare, with a few miscellaneous questions thrown in about the state and the origin of same. Most seeming to point toward a conspiracy theory.
Nonetheless, being the true-blue journalist I am, I feel compelled to share a distillation of these observations, courageously dismissing fact, history and even political persuasion, in my usual swashbuckling, journalistic style.
How it began
Thus, near as I can tell, the civilian view of Medicare (which flies in the face of conventional political wisdom, a phrase that defines “oxymoron”) goes something like this:
In the early days of our national odyssey toward confusing the words “health care” with the words “health insurance,” people who made decisions for people who were considered incapable of making decisions noted two distinct facts: (1) There was getting to be a lot of old and relatively poor people, and (2) should the number of old, poor people continue to grow, there appeared to be an entrepreneurial niche in which to develop a lucrative industry that accomplished virtually nothing, except to add dollars to pockets that were chuck-full of dollars.
Dismiss “value-added,” and think, “opportunity.”
Thus was born “health insurance” and, in there somewhere (because we are steadfastly avoiding being confused by facts), Medicare, and the approach is elegant in its simplicity.
If health care could continue to escalate its cost to the level of being unaffordable, people could probably be convinced that it made sense to send money to people who would, ostensibly, then send that money to people who were providing health care to people who needed health care, because the people who needed the health care didn’t have enough money to pay the people who provided it.
And if, again, the costs of health care could be driven upward to the point of orbital, people could probably be convinced that it made sense to pay some money out-of-pocket before the people you sent money to would send money to the people who provided you with health care, on the off chance you needed health care, or — better yet — drive up the costs of this thing called “health insurance” to the point where people were afraid to use it, because using it would increase the costs of their health insurance, so they would die without using health care.
Thus, the money they paid for health insurance would stay squarely where it belonged, which was in the pockets of the people that people sent money to, so they would pay that money for something that, as it turns out, people were afraid to use.
But that’s not all, because here’s the most conspiratorial piece of the conspiracy theory: as a subset (or, “fringe benefit”) of the above: If this health insurance/Medicare “thing” could adequately confuse, frustrate and intimidate (think, stress out) unrich old people to the point of medical capitulation, they would, likely, die sooner, providing the ever-elusive answer to reducing the number of poor people — population control — which is why Medicare has never paid for “long-term care.”
And the latter could be most effectively achieved by inventing concepts such as “deductible,” “co-pay,” “benefit limits,” “managed care,” “benefits coordination,” et cetera ad infinitum, which would, eventually replace the old cliché “… it isn’t rocket science” with “Well, it isn’t health insurance.”
OK, maybe not, but it does make you stop and think.
As is often the case on this fascinating planet where God is considered to have no sense of humor, there is an unintended, and somewhat contradictory, side effect to all of this.
Consider: As our national life expectancy has continued to increase in spite of health insurance, various forms of dementia (think, Alzheimer’s) have emerged as a leading means of retiring retirees.
Now, how does one attempt to prevent dementia?
By developing new neuronal pathways, among other things.
And how does one develop new neuronal pathways?
By learning new things and attempting to master the hitherto unmasterable.
And what is the most unmasterable thing you can imagine?
So, belay the sudoku, cancel the crossword, relegate the quantum physics text to the status of “doorstop” and simply perseverate on your Medicare “Explanation of Benefits!”
“Do not reply.”
Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].