By Ray Knapp
You may recall I had been for my yearly check-up at the VA and the doctor suggested a lung scan due to a past history of smoking and cancer in other parts of my body. I notified my civilian Primary Care Doctor who put in a request for the scan. It came back from Medicare as disapproved. The reason being, my age was past 77 and starting the first day of 2019, this procedure would not be approved for persons past that age.
People past that age still vote, so I wrote Phil Roe, Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn a letter voicing my disapproval and did get some response. Phil Roe’s caseworker sent me some forms to fill our detailing the circumstances, and I also received a personal letter via Email from Senator Lamar Alexander dated March 13, 2019. I’m not endorsing anyone in this column, but thought sharing Alexander’s letter might shed some light on the plight of Medicare as it now stands. The following is his letter in its entirety:
“Thank you for getting in touch with me and letting me know what’s on your mind regarding the age requirements for Medicare. I appreciate you sharing your personal story and your suggestions on ways to address this problem.
I am concerned about the long term structural problems facing the Medicare program. According to the Social Security and Medicare Board Trustees 2018 annual report, the Hospital Insurance Fund will run out of money in 2026. Also, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a beneficiary born in the 1950s will have paid $60,000 into Medicare but will receive $205,000 in benefits. Obamacare has made the problem worse by taking billions of dollars out of Medicare, creating more uncertainly for the future of the program.
The first victims of this Medicare fiscal cliff will be older Americans, millions of whom have no other way to pay their medical bills. The second victims will be younger Americans who expect us to solve our fiscal issues so they aren’t saddled with dealing with our national debt. In order to save the program, structural changes must be made. It is time for President Trump and Congress to start seriously looking at how to reform entitlement programs so that current beneficiaries are protected and the programs will still be here for younger Americans.
On April 14, 2015, I voted for the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, which was signed into law on April 16. This legislation permanently puts an end to the formula, passed by Congress in 1997, that capped Medicare payments to physicians and has been temporarily overridden by Congress 17 times. This bill also includes 10 years of funding for Tennessee’s Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) program, which helps Tennessee hospitals cover the costs of caring for low-income patients. These hospitals provided more than $2.4 billion in unreimbursed services to Tennesseans last year alone. I was glad to support this legislation, and I look forward to continuing to work with members of the Tennessee delegation to support Tennessee hospitals that provide care for those who need help the most.
I appreciate you letting me know where you stand on the issue of Medicare reform. I will be sure to keep your comments in mind as this important issue is discussed and debated here in Washington and in Tennessee. Sincerely, Lamar”
Well, I don’t know if my question as to why I was turned down for a lung scan because my age was past 77, or not. But from the tone of his letter, it is plain to see that Medicare is in one “mell of a hess,” as my dad would put it, and running out of money. The year 2026 is only 7 years away and I may live to see it. I hope Congress can get away from attacking individuals or opposing parties and come together for the good of the people … regardless of their age.