So I turned 65 this last weekend in January.
It was a Saturday, so I started it the usual way, which is to do a morning workout. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I do situps, upper body strength training, and (recently - thank you, COVID), stair stepper. The other days, you’ll find me on a morning hike in the woods.
I read email, opened a lot of ecards, most from close friends but a few from websites I didn’t even know had my birthday in their files, somewhere.
One thing I would NOT do on my birthday: Read any snail mail, email, or answer any phone messages about Medicare.
Yep, I joined of course, but not before I’d received about a million mailings from places in the country I’d never heard of, little pink cards urging me to contact them or I’d be swindled by heartless Medicare rascals. Then there were the usual suspects, from major health care providers, all urging me to take a look at their plans, because of course theirs were the best, etc., etc.
My company has contracted with a company that helps you navigate this stuff. That company called me dozens of times, starting last July, urging me to call them. First I went to their website and discovered that there were (if I recall) about 36 plans to choose from. 36. So I called them, and we walked through what I needed, and I selected a plan and a provider, and that was it.
A few days later, the same company called again, urging me to sign up for Medicare. Some of the snail mail dropped off, but not all of it. The government kicked in with “Medicare and You,” among other things. Then the company that had been calling me about signing up began calling my number and asking for my wife, to discuss the Medicare she is not only NOT eligible for yet but not even ready to start the six-month window for eligibility.
So I called them. Asked them to do me a favor. (No, not like Trump, this one was simple.) STOP calling me, I ALREADY HAVE my Medicare signed up this year. And STOP calling me about my wife, who isn’t anywhere near the time for eligibility. Got that?
The polite lady put me on hold. (Being on hold is how you feel old, by the way.) I aged twenty minutes while on hold for something that should be as simple as ticking a “Do not call” box. She returned, said that that had been harder than she thought (wait, what? NOBODY ELSE has called with this issue?) and said I would no longer receive calls.
About two weeks later, the calls started again. Along with a notice from the government that, congratulations, they needed FOUR monthly payments from me IN THE FIRST MONTH, just to get things rolling, because it takes about that long to get everything set up. Thanks for that. If I wanted a process this slow, I’d ask Congress.
Then more snail mail - this time urging me to ensure that make sure I’d signed up for the appropriate supplemental plan, which I had already done on the phone.
Then I received a “getting to know you” questionnaire from my health care provider, about 75 pages long, asking if I had any of these zillion different conditions, from warts to limbs falling off to general confusion, depression, a sense of being overwhelmed by paperwork (like this questionnaire), was I going to go in a nursing home, had I been and escaped, on and on. This along with (in a separate mailing) the telephone-book-sized benefits description and the 1001-Nights version of strangeness known as “THE FORMULARY.”
What the hell ever happened to the Paperwork Reduction Act? No, wait, that’s just the government. Who, in the midst of all this, sent my Medicare Card, in perishable heavy paper format. Since this card would be spending the rest of my life with me, I promptly copied and laminated it, so I could have a backup laminated copy and one for my wallet. Which I proudly installed there.
A few days later, my health care provider sent me THEIR card, in plastic, and instructed me NOT to use my Medicare Card, because I might be overcharged. Sigh. I took my laminated copy out (now I have two backups, I guess) and replaced it with the health care provider’s card.
Mind you, I’m not anticipating any health issues. Other than maybe eyestrain and elevated blood pressure from dealing with all of this.
A few days later, when I thought everything had finally died down, I came home from a morning hike to find a box on the porch. From my health care provider. It was thoughtful, I’ll admit - bandaids in case I cut myself, fever scans, the inevitable COVID masks (branded with their logo, of course, so I’m a walking hospital); and the best one, a deck of those playing cards where the symbols are tiny but the numbers are HUGE — because, of course, I’m not supposed to be able to see a damn thing.
I do scroll saw work, by the way, which involves tiny blades and precision detail. I can thread needles and read most of the world’s fine print (even all those exclusions on the 20% off coupons from retailers, reading through the list and wondering just what the hell I CAN buy at a discount). But now I have the official “geezer” playing cards.
I’m surprised I didn’t get a book on shuffleboard.
This all has helped me understand a couple of things.
First, 65 is of course just a number. It represents the number of times this goofy, noisy world has circled the sun since the day I was born. I’m treating the day pretty much just like any other.
Second, I think the whole point of the Medicare Mail Orgy is to start you on that slippery slope we all go down, which is the one that leaves you confused and grumpier than a badger blinking in the daylight.
Think about it. I get calls. I sign up. I get calls from the same people, asking me to sign up. I already DID. (Or did I? Maybe my memory is going, and how would I know?) I expect to get billed for one month. I get billed for four. Did I sign up four months ago and not realize it? I get MORE mailings. Now they hassle my wife. Then the playing cards with the huge numbers. Did I lose my eyesight when I wasn’t looking (and isn’t that kind of a strange way to put it?)
I get grumpy. STOP CALLING ME. STOP WITH THE MAILINGS. Don’t ask me questions about my health I wouldn’t have thought to ask myself (”Do you ever have dreams on Tuesday nights that your toenails have fallen off and are being eaten by wolverines wearing MAGA hats?”).
In short, Medicare is our society’s way of making sure you become a grumpy old geezer, whose memory has left him (along with various body parts) for far better times. Ah, the joy of it all.
So that’s my birthday - and I’m having a blast, now that this goldang rant is done.