Monthly Archives: October 2022

New at ART@CHC: The Fall

My guess is that the five most popular photo subjects are sunsets, sunrises, dogs/cats, grandchildren and autumn leaves.  This being the last day of October, I thought that a set of images devoted to Fall would be in order, which I have posted here at ART@CHC.

Thanks as always for taking a look.  Happy Halloween.

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H is for Hope

Burnsville NC (2008)

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Silly Season

Here we are again, the silly season in which seniors are targeted on snail-mail, online ads, TV commercials, you name it, to sign up for health care plans that promise everything and cost nothing.  Welcome to the October-December marketing world of Medicare.

We have been Medicare Advantage people from the outset and I have chosen those plans since we retired.  Their appeal to me is the certainty of a maximum out-of-pocket cost that one doesn’t get with traditional Medicare, plus the fact that Medicare Advantage is not a health-rated plan, as opposed to Medicare Supplement plans which take your health status into account when they set your rates.

I understand that Medicare Advantage limits us to a network of providers in North and South Carolina (which I double-check every fall) but how far do we want to travel anyway?  I feel like I already drive too many miles as it is to get credible health care.  Perhaps that reflects where we chose to live.  That said, should retirees base all their life and location decisions on how many miles it is to the nearest x-ologist?

In any event, what inspired this post was how our 2022 (current year) BCBS Medicare Advantage plan touted its new and supposedly improved dental coverage.  In past years, one could be reimbursed for $300 worth of preventive dental services, just by submitting said claims to BCBS of North Carolina.  But this year, BCBSNC dumped its subscribers into the Liberty Dental Plan, where an insured could submit claims for all kinds of dental services — as long as they were delivered by a Liberty Dental network provider.

What wasn’t mentioned by BCBSNC in early 2022 was that only 8 practices in our area would sign up for the Liberty Dental network.  Liberty went through the motions of asking subscribers to “nominate” their dentists to be part of their network.  An empty gesture, as my dental practice and most others didn’t choose to sign up.

So I wrote to BCBSNC about the fact that their 2022 dental coverage was, as far as I was concerned, less generous than before.  Here was their response:

On behalf of everyone at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), I want to thank you for trusting us with your healthcare needs.

I do understand your concerns about Liberty Dental. Your preferred dentist can join the Liberty Dental network if they choose to. You do have the option to explore an individual dental plan as well.

As you have expressed your dissatisfaction, you can file a grievance about this…

Ha.  Now there’s customer service.  Instructing you how to file a grievance.  Is it just me, or does it seem like they really didn’t care?

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina knew exactly what they were doing in 2022 when they hired Liberty to manage their Medicare Advantage dental coverage.  BCBSNC wanted to limit their liabilities, period.  That mission may have been accomplished, but apparently not without blowback — because here is the dental coverage BCBSNC is offering its Medicare Advantage subscribers in 2023:

$2,000 yearly allowance for services including oral exams, cleanings, X-rays, fillings, extractions and dentures. Certain limits apply. For services obtained out-of-network, you will be responsible for 20% plus additional costs up to the provider billed amount.

So the way I interpret this, BCBSNC will kick in something toward my dental bills in 2023, whether my dentist is in “network” or not.  Guess I should be grateful, but to me it reflects the money sloshing around in the Medicare Advantage business and what insurers feel they need to do to retain their “customers.”

I’ll sign up, by default, yet again.  Hard to argue with $0 monthly premiums.

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