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This isn’t medieval, but it angers and confuses me anyway.

My wife is just now eligible for Medicare.  She has health coverage through my employer.  My employer and I pay all the costs associated with this coverage *and* I pay additional taxes on the imputed earnings (the health care premium my employer pays for her coverage).

So we try to opt her out of Medicare Part B coverage since she already has equivalent coverage.

And we can’t.  Not without paying a very large penalty when she finally does opt in.

Why not?  Because Medicare only allows you to opt out without a penalty if you are covered by your employer’s insurance (she isn’t) or you are covered by your spouse’s employer’s insurance (thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) we’re not ‘spouses’ in Medicare’s eyes, even though we are utterly and completely legally married—with a marriage certificate to prove it. So much for States Rights!).

This is irritating for several reasons.

DOMA aside, how many other 65 year old people out there are covered by insurance not provided by an employer or a spouse’s employer?

  • Members of the Writers Guild of America.  The Writer’s Guild is not their employer, but they do provide Medical Coverage.
  • Ditto for zillions of other professional guilds, societies, organizations and unions.  Heck one of the reasons for those guilds, societies, organizations and unions is to provide a group rate on health insurance for members!
  • People who’s employers cover Domestic Partners—both same and opposite sex.
  • Private pay insurance in general.  Maybe your children are paying your premiums.  Or you’re doing it yourself because you found a really good deal.  But no, you have to either pay for both, or drop your really good deal or pay a penalty when you get Medicare in the future.

So the result of this is that the Federal Government is going to pay for my wife’s health care costs when my employer could be doing it instead.  How’s that for responsible fiscal policy?  Not that my employer is going to mind much.  One less person to pay premiums for.

And to top it all off, not one single piece of literature that we’ve been innundated with for months mentions that “spouse” means opposite-sex spouse only.  They all say she’s fine as long as she’s getting coverage through her “spouse’s” employer.  No fine print that says “spouse must be of the opposite sex from you”.  Not even with tens of thousands of legal same-sex marriages out there right now.  No.  We had to figure that bit out on our own.  ARGH.

And a waste of government money, too.

Why can’t the law state that if you provide proof of equivalent coverage, from whatever source, you can opt out of Medicare Part B until you lose that coverage?  Who cares where the coverage is coming from?  Just provide proof you’ve got it.  Makes much more sense to me.


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October 2017

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