A group of Medicare stakeholders met at the Ann Arbor District Library Tuesday night to hear financial consultant Jae Oh, a University of Michigan alum, speak about his book “Maximize Your Medicare: Understanding Medicare, Protecting Your Health, and Minimizing Costs.” Oh walked attendees through the process of selecting a plan with Medicare and answered their individual health insurance questions.

Oh began by outlining common misconceptions regarding healthcare, one of which explained how he got involved in the field of study. He said people often conflate health insurance and healthcare, looking to doctors for advice on insurance policies when they deal with a completely different subject matter.

“Healthcare is the most confusing combination of your relationship with your doctor and hospital, your employer, insurance companies, politics,” Oh said.

Health insurance is a financial contract addressing cost, Oh said. He likened health insurance to a long-term investment, much like stocks and bonds.

“Healthcare cost is the number one cost as you get older,” Oh said. “If you let it run out of control, I promise you, you can choose bond fund one versus bond fund two. It’s not going to matter in the scheme of things. The healthcare cost mismanagement is going to override everything else.”

Oh told attendees that if their financial advisors are not already aware of their long-term health considerations, they should be. Oh, who has consulted on a myriad of financial considerations, said health insurance is just another component.

According to Oh, most of the country is under-informed on the details of Medicare and he said anyone who believes Medicare does not affect them is overlooking the potential for increased premiums on their private plans when uninsured people walk out on their healthcare bills.

“Your neighbor just foreclosed on their house,” Oh said. “Guess what? It’s not only their problem now. It’s your problem. Why? Your house just dropped in value, like it or not. Just like (when people) don’t understand health insurance or leave an unpaid bill with a healthcare provider, guess who pays: the insured.”

The event featured a Q&A session, in which Oh answered specific questions addressing individuals’ Medicare experiences. He admitted the process is complicated and blamed the disjointed taxation processes which support Medicare and Medicaid separately as a reason why plans that work in European countries cannot work in the United States.

Oh also took issue with Americans’ dependence on the internet for Medicare explanation. He said much of what is posted online muddles definitions, spreads falsehoods and confuses even experts such as himself.

“We get hit with 140 characters, and suddenly everything goes to mush and the terms get wrongly used, and then you get biased parties using terms wrongly for their own design,” Oh said. “It’s easy to get confused, and you’ll get that over and over and over — on financial topics especially.”

Kalamazoo resident Diane Gregory attended the talk because of the confusion related to Medicare. She said her primary problem is with phone salesmen who try to convince her Medicare works a certain way — she has no idea if they’re telling the truth.

“I’m getting inundated by these calls, but I don’t answer any of them because they’re selling something, and it’s sort of like if you don’t know enough to be wary of those things, then any salesman can come and con you into something and tell you it’s the best thing for you when it’s not,” Gregory said.

Many people with Oh’s expertise charge hundreds of dollars an hour for private consulting. Oh said he speaks in public for free because he believes those who most need Medicare advice are those who cannot pay those consulting fees.

Oh implored audience members to take the information they learned and disseminate it within their own communities. He also provided attendees with links to a Facebook group and a Youtube channel for future reference and further detail.

“There’s resources for this information, and that marginal information is enormous to the people most in need,” Oh said. “And these exceptions are in their favor.”

Ann Arbor resident Rosemarie Russell said she came to hear Oh speak because she was curious about Medicare but wasn’t sure exactly which issues she needed guidance on. She said she felt far more informed about her options following the presentation.

“It helps us know what questions to ask,” Russell said. “You need a lot of information to know what questions to ask.”

Gregory, like Russell, said she appreciated the event because she learned a lot.

“He touched on a lot of good subjects which I think are of (importance) in a lot of people’s minds, but, like he said, you almost have to go to something like this to have that level of awareness be raised in your mind so that you do know to look further into it,” Gregory said.

Oh advised University students to be aware of Medicare as well. He said even though they aren’t eligible, their parents and grandparents may be. Oh called healthcare “the number one domestic policy issue.” With the 2020 elections approaching, Oh said University students should be informed on exactly what Medicare is before deciding to switch to alternatives.

“People don’t know what they’re choosing,” Oh said. “People don’t know what the difference is, and then they’re going to be voting on it. That’s more than a little scary.”

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