Insurance decisions may be harder than election choice

Matt Pommer • Wisconsin Newspaper Association

The election is over, but the average citizen still has important decisions to make in the next few weeks.

It’s time to decide on health insurance coverage for 2017. For many the selection process is far more difficult than making the recent ballot decisions. Clearly it can affect both your health and your finances faster than the new president can.

Trust me, the talk is everywhere. At the weekly card game there is discussion of how and when to sign up for Medicare. Then there is the question of selecting a supplemental plan and drug coverage.

The new-to-65 players get a lot of conflicting advice. More will come in the mail as well as from others already on Medicare. Everybody seems willing to share their friendly advice and experience about doctors and insurance plans.

Family members play a role. Our middle-aged son called to ask for advice about the options being offered by his employer. He’s well educated with a couple of college degrees. I told him there was no easy or “right” answer in making insurance decisions, in part because it’s impossible to predict your family’s health in 2017.

Those elected earlier this month may need to address health issues before their terms of office expire. Medicare and Social Security funding issues may surface but those hot button issues seem to require bipartisan approaches.

The background is clear. Modern medicine is more expensive than it was in the 20th century. Even more important is that we are living longer. Just read the newspaper obituaries and check the ages.

Then there is Obamacare with its goal of providing health coverage opportunities for all. The Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) will remain in the news. It requires many employers to provide health insurance for their workers. But with a tightening labor market across America health insurance can be a vital tool to recruit and retain workers.

Its provisions include a 3.8 percent income tax surcharge on income above $400,000. That’s not popular among those at that income level. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, has vowed to eliminate and replace Obamacare. The details of that “replacement” plan are unclear.

Obamacare also includes large federal funding to the states to help pay for expanding Medicaid. Wisconsin did not accept the full Medicaid expansion. Gov. Scott Walker said the federal government couldn’t afford such help.

The governor and the new Legislature will have health care budget decisions to make before July.

Back to individuals. The easiest choice this month may be to get a flu shot.

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