When in doubt, don't go out -- even if you're covered by auto insurance

In hindsight, I could be called smart ... or overly cautious. You decide. I was looking forward to a friend's annual holiday party one Saturday night in December, but knew I had to drive almost 50 miles to get there. About midday it started to snow and kept on snowing until early evening. By then I had already cancelled. The reminder of having almost been run down a few years ago while changing a flat tire in the snow had made me wary of the white stuff. Then, just as suddenly as it started, the snow stopped. The plows came out and the roads were clear to the blacktop. Mr. Right Being the Type A personality that I am, I started to regret not having gone to the party. I berated myself the whole night -- well, maybe not the whole night -- but awoke to find that perhaps I was right all along. Although the snow had stopped, the cold had iced over the roads later that evening. And, as I soon found out from watching the news, a car carrying a local couple skidded under an oncoming train. The husband died and the wife wound up in critical… (continue reading......)

Unsure if you're insured: Obamacare limps into 2014

This is the story of two small business owners on opposite coasts and their problem with the federal health insurance law. Their problem: You have to get it, but even when you try, you can't. The one on the East Coast navigated the federal website, Healthcare.gov, while the West Coast company tried to figure out the Covered California website. Ironically, their experiences were almost identical -- difficult and unfavorable. California dreaming The small West Coast computer repair and website design company is located near Los Angeles. Although President Obama said that you would be able to keep your coverage if you desired, the husband and wife owners lost their health plans and had to get new coverage through Covered California. And, despite this business owner's computer expertise and website proficiency, he still found the site "confusing." His first unanswered question was, "Is my old carrier going to enroll us automatically on the exchange or do we have to enroll?" He called his old insurer and discovered that he would indeed have to go through the entire enrollment process. It would prove painful and time consuming at the end of a very busy year. So he logged on to the website,… (continue reading......)

Medicare payment system is vexing for one veteran

Warren Scheible fought his way across Europe as a combat engineer with General Patton in World War II in an outfit known as "Patton's Troubleshooters." But the Hamilton, N.J., veteran never saw a skirmish like the one he is now waging with a drug company. Hobbling around his home with a diabetic wound in his foot, the still sharp 91-year-old former financial planner is rummaging through a box of bills, totaling nearly $2,000, which Warren believes he shouldn't have to pay. "Why charge me one price for a shot one time and seven times the price for the same shot three days later?" he asks. "And why does Medicare pay the bill this time but not the next? They tell me to call, so I keep calling. But I can't get a straight answer." 'D' for effort At the heart of Warren's problem is the complex law known as Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D), which took effect in 2006. It arguably benefits the pharmaceutical companies more than consumers, since it was engineered by then Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin, who left Congress to become president of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, a powerful lobbying group. Older Americans like… (continue reading......)

Could that medical 'bill' really be just a 'courtesy' reminder?

My story is all too familiar to those who have lingered too long in the sun. During my annual skin screening, the dermatologist scraped off a piece of skin and sent it to a laboratory to determine if it was cancerous. I should note here that patients really don't have a choice about which lab the dermatologist -- or any medical provider -- uses. When the lab found nothing wrong, it notified my doctor who notified me. And then the fun started. The lab mailed me a "bill" requesting payment for the portion that Medicare didn't cover. The big red letters at the top of the page read, "Make Check Payable To" and in the middle, also in red, "Detach And Return Top Portion With Your Remittance." Red-letter day When I get a bill like this I usually just pay it. Like everyone else I value my credit rating and, in the back of my mind, there's always a recurring nightmare that some nasty creditor will damage my score because of a bill I overlooked. On the contrary, my wife isn't as quick to just pay. "Wait a minute," she said. "Wasn't this bill already paid in full?" She combed… (continue reading......)

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