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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A little help navigating changes in health care system

Since health insurance is on everybody’s mind these days, I thought I would inject an experience I had last week having to do with my own coverage.

But first, allow me to thank everyone who responded to last week’s essay on my analysis of what the government calls the Affordable Care Act and what most everyone else calls Obamacare.

There were more responses than I could tabulate without mechanical help. Virtually all the comments were thoughtful and articulate. I did my best to at least acknowledge all of them. It took a while.

Though I didn’t do an actual count, I would guess the sentiment was about 15 to 1 in favor of what I had to say. Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond. I appreciate it.

It was a pleasant interlude from the agony of another sorry exhibition by the Browns, who are what Paul Brown used to call “snake bit.”

I can’t think of anything that can be done to correct the trend, but whatever the team’s ownership does to take remedial steps, I would offer one bit of advice that I think is an imperative:

No matter what, DON’T FIRE THE COACH. We have had enough of that. It is not a solution. It doesn’t help. Leave Chud alone. It’s not his fault. Get better players.

But I digress.

My own health care plan is called Humana. I’m sure you have heard of it. It is advertised on TV every day. I think it is great. But unless you are 65, you can’t qualify for it. If you are too young, sorry about that. But if you are old enough for Medicare (that great socialistic program we elders appreciate so much) and you haven’t looked at Humana, you would be well-advised to at least check it out.

Last year, my premiums were $72 a month. A few months ago I got a notice in the mail they would go up next year to $82 a month.

I had my sales rep stop by so we could talk about it during the current enrollment period. Her office is in Parma Heights, but she was perfectly willing to come by, as she does once a year.

“Don’t pay any attention to that,” she advised. “It is going up $2 a month, to $74.”

Great, I exclaimed. I can live with that. Some of my friends are telling me their premiums are going sky high, to $700 or $800 a month. And mine is rising to only $74 a month! That is fantastic!

I don’t know how they do it!

I can’t begin to tell you what all I get for that modest premium. A doctor’s office visit is $15 (unless it’s a specialist; that goes up from $40 to $45 a visit), and my prescriptions (I get four of them) are absolutely without cost, as in free, as long as I get them by mail, which of course I do. Do I look dumb enough to go someplace to pick them up when I can get them by mail, a 90-day supply every three months, for nothing? (Don’t answer that).

“You will be getting a new premium booklet in the mail,” Luba (it’s a Lithuanian name) told me.

Well, nothing is ever simple. In the mail last week I got TWO premium books, one for $74 a month and the other for $82. I was on the phone with Humana before Dave the mailman had left the driveway.

After the usual pushing of buttons and admonitions that the conversation might be recorded, I got an extremely nice guy with a pleasant drawl on the phone.

“Pay the $74 amount,” he said. “Throw the other book away.”

“Done,” I said. “And by the way, what is your name?” I think he said it was Howard, or Raymond, or something like that.

“Where are you?” I asked next. I always ask that.

“Dallas,” he replied. That set off a 15-minute conversation as I told him of the three-day passes I spent in Dallas when I was in the Army.

“Where were you stationed?” he asked. Fort Hood, I told him. Me too, he said. He spent 10 years in the Army and was stationed at Fort Hood twice. Elvis was there, too.

“Ever go to Waco, or Temple?” he asked. Many times, I replied. Or, as they say in Texas, minny tams.

“How about Killeen?” Every weekend, I told him. “That was a wild town when I was there,” he offered. Not when I was there, I said. It was pretty tame. I spent all my money at the record store and most of my time at the USO, where my buddy, Dominic Sarno, and his Ohio friends from Youngstown would stand in front of the TV and defy anyone who dared to turn off the Browns game. Nobody dared.

The real excitement came on payday weekends, and my friend from Humana talked about that for a while, but then I had to go. Dinner was waiting. We barely got around to talking about payday weekend in San Antonio. Now that was exciting.

So that’s my report on health insurance. I hope you find it helpful.


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