My first time pushing Medicare’s Blue Button

April 5, 2012 in health care costs, Health Insurance

I’m in Texas visiting my darling sister Elizabeth who is going on 20 years with ALS. GO ELIZABETH! My mom hands me a stack of paper. It’s the latest round of reimbursement roulette. Someone is refusing to pay for something that my sister uses a lot of every day and I need to figure out why.

I grimace but then remember, hey, here’s my chance to check out Medicare’s BLUE BUTTON. My Savvy colleague Adrian Gropper talks about how great this thing is. Let’s find out. (Turns out Adrian wants an enhanced version of the Blue Button more on that below).

The Blue Button, takes any member into their own private Medicare world. You see claims for office visits, hospital stays and supplies. I spent an hour trying to figure out why Medicare wouldn’t pay for the syringes that push food into my sister’s feeding tube and why they won’t send as many absorbent pads as her doctor says she needs.

I didn’t get anywhere when I started the search last Sunday. The claims database is down on weekends. But I was impressed by how much I can find online. My insurer, Blue Cross, has similar feature but it isn’t quite as user friendly. In the end, my mom has to appeal the denial of the syringes and we’re appealing for more pads through Medicaid.

I imagine that some of you wonder why Medicare and Medicaid should pay for these items. It’s a fair question. I’ll just say that after 20 years of taking care of my sister, my mom is bordering on bankrupt, and that’s with a lot of help from me and my siblings. My mother and sister are very grateful for Medicare and Medicaid. My sister would not be alive without these programs.

Adrian is trying to make sure everyone can access their health records through a Blue Button (or some similar program). He wants more than what’s available through Medicare. He wants a full personal health record that patients can share with doctors or family members or other caregivers. I know legislative leaders are talking about giving patients more and easier access to their records. We’ll know more about what they’re proposing, perhaps later this month.

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