Today's Note from a Madman


Tuesday, December 14, 2004


How the Bush Administration Has, Is and Will Screw Up Medicare

A Very GRIM Fairy Tale

by Noah Greenberg


Almost 40 percent of the time, Medicare's toll-free number either gives out the wrong information or none at all to the US Elderly. The GAO found that "in a test of the service, the investigators from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that almost 30 percent of callers received inaccurate answers, while 10 percent got no answers at all."

"The toll-free number for beneficiaries received 16.5 million calls in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up from 5.6 million in the prior year."
-The GAO Report

This means that 6.6 million elderly people got the wrong information, or none at all from Medicare.

"Discount cards, available since May, can significantly reduce drug costs. But many beneficiaries hesitated to sign up, saying they were puzzled by the multiplicity of options. A government Web site compares the drug prices under various cards, but..."
-The GAO Report



What's so hard to figure out?

When my 82-year-old mother needs information from the bank, she calls me or one of my other brothers to pick her up and take her to the bank. On occasion, she might actually call the bank, but lately, she finds it harder and harder to get any information out of them at all. The bank's usual response to my mom is, "Go to www.<bank_name_withheld>.com, set up a username and password, then go to..."

That's when I get the call. Now, I fear I'm going to have to take weekly trips to Washington, DC so my mom can get her Medicare benefits straightened out.

"In response, Bush administration officials say that beneficiaries can get all the information they need by calling 800-MEDICARE (633-4227). But the people who answer those calls are themselves often confused, in an evaluation required by Congress under the new law."
-The GAO Report

To add insult to injury, the 800-MEDICARE line is run for the government, under contract, by Pearson Government Solutions, a unit of Pearson P.L.C., a $7 billion international media company based in London, England. The government has even OUTSOURCED our elderly citizen's Medicare benefit administration on a contract basis.


Hard to explain. Or is it?

Stupid Quotes of the Day


"We believe we responded as well as we reasonably could given the unique and demanding circumstances."
-Dr. Mark B. McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services


Just what does Dr. McClellan think is poor response? And I wonder if he is any relation to President Bush's Press Secretary, Scott McClellan .

"Medicare would cover a power wheelchair only if a beneficiary had adequate space to put it in the trunk of his car,"

-The GAO report, citing a Medicare operator, confusing trunk strength with the size of a car trunk


At least the Medicare operator didn't think elephant.


-Noah Greenberg

My Trip to the Mall

An OUTSOURCING Adventure - Part 2


No Coats at the Mall


That Sunday, as we always do, the family gathered around the table to eat breakfast and read the Sunday Newark Star-Ledger. I like the Ledger. It has writers from the left, right and center, which means that the Corporate Conservatives think it is a Left-Wing, Liberal-Media, Commie-Pinko, France-Loving, Canadian-Messenger of the devil himself.


But I digress.


My wife of 21 years, Hillary (not THE Hillary, but OUR Hillary) comes across an ad from Modell's, a sporting good store chain on the New York, New Jersey Metropolitan area. They have CARHARTT coats on sale at 20 percent off. So, off to Modell's we go.


The first thing we see as we enter Modell's are these nice three-quarter length coats from Smith's of Brooklyn, NY. I know they are from Smith's of Brooklyn because, in the largest type possible it says, "U.S.A.) and "Brooklyn, NY".


My wife says, "Here's a coat made in Brooklyn! How much more American than that do you need?"

"Wait a minute," I reply as I look inside the coat.

Sure enough, the small, almost unreadable care label says "Made in Viet Nam." It looked something like this:



Brooklyn, NY

Made in Viet Nam


I was pissed.


We venture further into the store where I find my prize: the CARHARTT three-quarter length coat.


I now can change my flat tire without worrying about catching a cold. I am warm. I am comfortable. I have a coat that looks like it could withstand an evening in the Arctic.


Now I can drive around in my 2002 Chrysler Sebring wearing socks AND my new CARHARTT three-quarter length coat.


I still need underwear.


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-Noah Greenberg