Obamacare has a new ethos for seniors: take two aspirins and find yourself a new doctor or health plan in the morning.
Just ask 84-year-old Dorothy Gaillard, a patient of my father, a Manhattan primary care physician, for more than two decades.
Gaillard could easily find a doctor near her Queens home but she dutifully makes a 45-minute schlep to my father’s Manhattan office for uniquely personal care. He takes her blood pressure himself and even schedules her next appointment, tasks that most doctors shunt off to assistants.
A retiree carries a bag of educational pamplets from L.A. Care, the largest public health plan in the US, at a Senior Information & Resource Fair in South Gate, California September 10, 2013 . The event included a discussion of how the Affordable Care Act, also called 'Obamacare' will impact senior citizens and what insurance plans will be available to them. With just weeks until a centerpiece of the health care reform law launches, the task of spreading the word about new health insurance marketplaces will fall to local navigators and counselors employed locally but funded by federal grant money. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
That something is Obamacare.“I couldn’t believe it,” Gaillard recalled. “They took my doctor out of the program. They shouldn’t throw him out and tell me what to do. Something ain’t right.”
As I reported recently for the Daily Caller, Obamacare budget cuts are starting to decimate the Medicare Advantage program, in which Medicare provides money for private insurers to cover seniors.
In order to fund other aspects of Obamacare the Affordable Care Act cuts $717 billion from Medicare over 10 years to fund other aspects of the program - $156 billion of that comes from the Medicare Advantage budget, 28 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries receive coverage through Medicare Advantage.
The havoc that Obamacare is wreaking on Medicare Advantage patients and their physicians has largely been overlooked amid all the talk about Americans who purchase insurance on the individual market losing their plans.
None of the statements and assurances that Barack Obama has made regarding the cancellation of individual health insurance plans will have any effect on what the not so Affordable Health Care Act is now doing to seniors.
His promises about Americans being able to keep their own doctors and health insurance plans remains as much of a lie to seniors today as when he first uttered it.
Retired chemist Edward Schokowitz knows this full well.
Like many residents of his senior citizen apartment complex near Atlantic City, Schokowitz last month learned that his Medicare Advantage plan was being cancelled due to Obamacare budget cuts.
“They took all the senior citizens and threw us out of the plan,” Schokowitz told me. “The President said you can’t be kicked out of your plan. He lies. Obama is killing more old people than Dr. Kevorkian ever did.”
[sharequote align="center"]Obama is killing more old people than Dr. Kevorkian ever did.[/sharequote]
New Jersey Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is no longer offering zero-premium Medicare Advantage plans with drug coverage like the one Schokowitz had before the federal Leviathan that is Obamacare intruded.
It is well to note that zero-premium plans, contrary to the name, are not free.
The government deducts $104.90 per month from the Social Security payments to all Medicare and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. Now, in addition to that, Schkowitz will need to pay $153 per month for the same kind of plan he had for no additional cost before Obamacare.
Senior citizens all over the country have good reason to feel the same was as Schokowitz. Nearly 4,000 UnitedHealthCare Medicare Advantage members in Hawaii just learned their plans are being cancelled.
The company is dropping all its Medicare plans in Allegheny County, Pa. In Cochise County, Ariz., HealthNet and Human are both canceling Medicare Advantage plans for next year.
In 2014 “a majority of counties across the country will see a decrease in the number of MA plans available,” according to the consulting group Avalere Health.
The unfolding damage to Medicare is exactly what Obamacare critics long predicted but Democrats and journalists dismissed as partisan posturing, even outright fabrications.
Mitt Romney warned during the Presidential campaign that Obamacare was “destroying” Medicare Advantage. Romney and Paul Ryan repeatedly spoke of how it would damage the entire Medicare program.
But Time magazine staff writer Kate Pickert declared that the Romney campaign assertions were patently false. In what could have been a Democratic National Committee press release she asserted that the Romney camp’s assertion “that the Affordable Care Act struck a dangerous blow to Medicare that will change the program in fundamental ways is untrue.”
Now, seniors, much to their horror and fright, are discovering it is quite true.
Nationwide, UnitedHealthcare is canceling 10 to 15 percent of its contracts with Medicare Advantage doctors.
Doctors in at least 10 states have received the axe.
UnitedHealthcare spokesman Kevin Shermach told the Springfield News-Sun that “financial pressures created by severe cutbacks in Medicare Advantage” gives the company no choice but to cut doctors loose.
Brooklyn internist Mitchell Lipton, who has 60 UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage patients, got a termination letter from the company last month.
“My reaction was that I hate Obamacare,” he told this writer.
Lipton is one of the 2,100 New York metropolitan area doctors UnitedHeatlhCare Medicare Advantage is shedding.
Empire Blue and Emblem Health are also cutting New York Medicare Advantage physicians loose but the precise numbers are unclear.
New Jersey Medical Society general counsel Melinda Martinson says she expects that thousands of patients will have their doctors cut out of Medicare Advantage programs. Northern New Jersey ophthalmologist and obstetrician-gynecologists are among the providers who have already received pink slips from UnitedHealthcare.
Back to Herbert Gahr, MD. He voted twice for Barack Obama but now feels the President has betrayed him. Dr. Gahr thought the government health care program would bring him more patients, not snatch away those already under his care.
“I fear for my patients under Obamacare,” he says.
It is well to note that people of modest means such as Dorothy Gaillard, a retired book binder, are beneficiaries of the very program, Medicare, which Democrats claimed in the last election they were determined to protect from Republicans who would decimate it.
Neurologist Steven Trobiani, author of Sustainable Health Care Reform: Harnessing the Power of Capitalism to Fund Our Social Needs, says that the dumping of doctors could precipitate health care rationing—exactly what Obamacare critics have long warned the Affordable Care Act would unleash.
“For patients, this will result in longer times before appointments can be obtained. It will mean that many of these patients will lose doctors with whom they have had long-standing relationships,” argues Trobiani. “In some cases it will mean that they are seen by less qualified individuals who are likely to offer less in terms of diagnostic testing or recommend less sophisticated and therefore less costly treatment options. This is healthcare rationing pure and simple.”
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