Jody Beauregard is a sweet, gentle man who has worked on Tom Ripley’s garbage truck for a decade or so. Before that, he schlepped shingles up ladders for Dean Russell when Dino still had his business in North Puffin.
Providence smiled on Jody three years ago. He scored an indoor job with dental insurance and regular hours. First time he had ever worked 40 hours per week and with a building contractor, so he got to see the “comfortable” end of the construction business.
Until the comfortable got dissed in the meltdown. The contractor laid him off a year later, on his 65th birthday.
Jody didn’t mind too awful bad. He was collecting Unemployment and had enough quarters in to retire. He likes to take off every fall to hunt anyway and expects to put up enough meat to last him through the year then but retirement, ah retirement, would let him feel more relaxed at deer camp.
Jody collected about $280/week in UI but he also qualified for $1,286/month net in Social Security. And, of course, he qualified for Medicare. He signed up for Part B. He was in double dipper’s clover. Until Unemployment ran out. And the Unemployment extension ran out. And the extended Unemployment extension ran out.
Early last year, the Great State of Vermont decided to “give” him some medical coverage and to pay his Part B Medicare insurance premium. He was in pig heaven. I’m a pretty fair reporter but I still don’t know how he got on Vermont’s Health Access Plan (VHAP) list or what the requirements are.
It’s an elegant, enchanting, thought-provoking system. In August, September, and October of last year, for example, Social Security charged Jody nothing for his Part B coverage. He was still receiving Unemployment compensation during those months. In November, Social Security deducted the Part B premium from his check. He has received no Unemployment payments that month or since. In December, Vermont paid the Part B premium. In January and February Social Security deducted the Part B premium again but some time last year, he got an unexplained $142 extra deposit from Social Security. Confused yet? I am. The premium Jody pays Vermont has also bounced around, month-by-month, between $15 and $50 per month with no explanation.
A Vermont minion told Jody that the reason the state is not paying his premium anymore is that he “makes too much money.” And yet, his unemployment ended in October and his Social Security check — his only income — is unchanged for the third year in a row. No COLA, doncha know.
They have yet to send statements or bills to him. He has asked for but never received an Explanation of Coverage so he has no idea what the $15 (or $50) he pays each month buys him. Vermont has an sensational online presence but no account Jody can log in to, so he has never known how much the premium for the medical coverage they give him is. “I’m pretty sure it is the Plan B I signed up for plus prescription coverage,” he told me. Sheesh.
The Vermont rep told him he makes too much money but still won’t tell him what poke he gets for his pig.
These are the very people who want to run our car manufacturers (and other businesses) and our statewide health care system.
Gov. Peter Shumlin wants to set up a Health Insurance Exchange. In exchange for what?
“Exchange” as a verb usually means to trade someone one something for a different something else that person has or to replace (perhaps defective) merchandise with its working equivalent. As a noun, we say it is that same something that was given or received as a substitute for something else. Sometimes an exchange is a place, like the Stock Exchange, for buying and selling commodities or securities. That kind of exchange is typically open only to members.
Vermont lawmakers got their first thorough look at the guv’s plans for his beloved single-payer health care system last week. Mr. Shumlin plans to start this year by setting up the same state health insurance exchange the constitutionally-challenged Obamacare calls for.
Mr. Shumlin wants more. His state health insurance exchange will help drive the last commercial insurers out of Vermont and serve as his springboard to moving the state to a single-payer system in micro-steps. This year, he will create a new Vermont Health Reform Board not to control health system costs but rather to dictate how much the state will pay providers for services.
The administration will not unveil its financing plan for the new system until 2013, two years after the system is in place.
Perhaps one year after Mr. Shumlin is no longer in place.
“It’ll be good, Mr. Dick,” Jody Beauregard told me. “I can exchange my plan for something even better.”
Remember Jody’s experience. Guess who made his life so easy? Happy Valentine’s Day, Jody.