Call me Scarlett, but when it came to Medicare, I took an “I’ll think about that tomorrow” stance.
Medicare sounded so complicated—the choices, the timelines, the regulations. Television PSAs about pending changes to the laws and enrollment deadlines were ominous. Three things had long confounded me: car engines, football plays and insurance policies. Now there were four. Fearing the complexities of Medicare, I opted not to think about them until I absolutely had to. Last year, time was up.
Fast forward seven months since “going on it,” I should be able to effortlessly lead my turning-65 friends through the Medicare maze, right? Wrong. Even if I did recall all those regulations and procedures, the fact is, everyone’s requirements are different, anyway.
Looking back, my fears were justified. As my 65th birthday neared, my mailbox bulged with Medicare material: buy this plan or that plan; heed deadlines or pay penalties; be aware, legislation is changing. Meanwhile, Medicare and Social Security spokespersons such as Chubby Checker, Patty Duke and George Takei assured their fellow Baby Boomers that the processes were easy. Patty applied on line in her pajamas. George encouraged seniors to “boldly go” to socialsecurity.gov. Chubby promised that getting extra help on line was easier than learning the twist.
Easy as ABC? And D? Not for me.
OK, Medicare Part A, hospital insurance, and Part B, medical insurance, are fairly elementary. By contrast, having a crystal ball and/or an MBA degree would be helpful in deciphering Part C, Medicare Advantage, where private companies contract with Medicare to offer plans that help with A and B, and often D. Part D, prescription drug coverage, computes formularies and tiers—from generic to specialty—to determine premiums and deductibles, depending on the applicants’ medications.
Opting out of Part C, for most seniors, necessitates selecting a Medicare supplement insurance plan, or Medigap, to cover medical costs not paid by Medicare. More alphabet soup. Lots more. Submitting an on-line form produced 53 choices for plans in my area of the country. Fifty-three! Various companies’ standardized policies offered Plans A through N, with wide ranges of coverage, copays and benefits.
All of that makes me wish Medicare could be like In-N-Out Burger.
“Wow, I love this!” I thought when my son recently introduced me to the West Coast restaurant chain. Its huge success is based on quality (food so fresh they have no freezers,) excellent customer service and smart business sense. Its menu: double cheeseburger, cheeseburger, hamburger, fries, drinks. Simple selection. Nothing to guilt me into a salad, or grilled chicken. (Excuse plug; great place!)
In the end, I took my long list of Medicare questions to the Social Security Administration office where I waited under the watchful eye of a Chubby Checker cutout to be assured that I could, indeed, do this. Gotta say, those folks know their stuff. The counselors, as well as the handful of insurance agents I met with, were reassuring and informative. Having made what I believed were the best selections considering my medical and financial situations, I still occasionally second guess them. Good to know that re-enrollment season starts again in the fall.
Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to be a primer for understanding Medicare or Social Security. Obviously. And in no way is it meant to be critical of Medicare, which I love, love, love and hope never goes away!