The Perfect Medicare Advantage Example

Get a load of this:

Heathways SilverSneakers Fitness Program promotes fitness, fun and friends!
Blue Shield of California announced today that it will expand its contract with Healthways, Inc. to offer the SilverSneakers Fitness Program to Blue Shield Medicare Advantage members in San Bernardino County. SilverSneakers, which Blue Shield already offers in Los Angeles and Orange counties, is the nation’s leading exercise program for older adults. Blue Shield members in San Bernardino can join the program at no additional cost as of January 1.

Where to start?

OK, first of all, what you’re seeing here is a Medicare Advantage program offering its subscribers free membership in a fitness/program.  This isn’t something that people in regular old Medicare can get.  It’s a perk for people who choose to go with this Medicare Advantage option.  They don’t pay anything extra.  We do.  Through taxes.  Remember, we are paying a 14% premium to Blue Shield of California for them to provide insurance services to the elderly.

Now I suppose you could make the argument that it’s a good thing for people to go exercise.  I agree.  But should taxpayers pay for it?  Is this what Medicare is for?  Gym memberships?

First of all, it’s not worth the money.  We’re paying 14% more to Medicare Advantage programs so seniors can join the gym?  That’s not worth the money.  Gyms don’t cost that much.  Moreover, it’s not what Medicare is for.  As we complain about deficits, how can we justify these types of expenses?  We can’t.  Medicare Advantage is a waste.

Second, it’s not fair.  If we believe gym memberships are something that taxes should pay for, then all seniors should get them.  Why just those who choose Medicare Advantage?  Why do they get more robust plans just because we “chose” to give private insurance companies more money?

Third, it’s a perfect example of how insurance companies shift the risk pool.  Which seniors would be attracted to gym memberships?  Health ones.  You can be sure bedridden and truly ill seniors won’t care about SilverSneakers.  So by offering something like this (on our dime), Blue Shield preferentially attracts a better risk pool for themselves.

They get more healthy people.  It costs them less money to insure them.  And they get extra money from us to do it.

Is this something we really want to avoid cutting?

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