Well, last week I signed up for Medicare. And while I got an email a few days later saying that a decision had been made on my application, of course it didn’t say what the decision was but that I’d be getting a letter telling me soon (because why shouldn't the federal government which is rolling in dough spend a few more shekels on a stamp?).
Well, yesterday it arrived. I’m officially registered for Medicare which starts in a few months when I actually do turn 65. (65? Oy).
Before I signed up for Medicare (at least I can say it without choking on the word now, just stuttering a little), I talked to an insurance consultant hoping she could walk me through the various options involved in getting Medicare and what else i might need to help me through my golden years of health care. Tried to do it on my own and, while I’m a relatively intelligent person, I couldn’t figure it out. It’s like going into an IHOP. The menu is just too voluminous to make a choice.
For example, are you aware that when you finally get to sign up for “free” health care, you also have to buy other policies to make up for the things Medicare doesn’t provide? Like long-term care? Or dental? Oh, and those pesky deductibles.
I say this as a nearly 65-year-old man who, thanks to having two mild strokes, takes five prescriptions a day. But, Medicare – which I remind you is for older Americans -- covers drugs only to a certain point. The cost of my drugs hits that “gap” in the seven month of the year. So, for nearly half the year, I need to pay for my own prescriptions.
Thankfully, I’m a position where I can make those payments for a bit … what about those who can’t afford it? The “official” explanation for this, from Wikipedia, is: “After a Medicare beneficiary exits the initial coverage of the prescription-drug plan, the beneficiary is financially responsible for a higher cost of prescription drugs until he or she reaches the catastrophic-coverage threshold.”
This has been designated the Medicare Gap or, more commonly, the "donut hole." The Institute for America's Future (a liberal-leaning group, but still) did a report that says more than 55 percent of those getting Medicare and who enter that gap will never reach catastrophic coverage. So, no more drug money. Oh, that study also shows that gap has serious (bad) health effects on those folks. So, one way to look at this is that the health care the government provides leads many Americans to poorer health. Not that I'm arguing against Medicare, just that maybe -- when the Congress gets done with the more important issues like holding up the nomination of a perfectly qualified Attorney General -- they can address this minor issue of better health care for their constituents.
So Medicare which, again, is for older Americans many of whom depend on drugs to manage various health conditions, does not really cover much of your drug costs. Thank goodness that it covers hearing aids and eyeglasses because who among us over 65 doesn’t need one or the other, or both? But wait, no, Medicare does not cover hearing aids or glasses – because after 65, if you are among those who don’t work, why do you really need to see or hear? To watch your grandkids grow and learn? To enjoy the life you thought you earned after working for five or so decades? Nah, you didn’t work all your life so you could see and hear those terrific kids play or discuss or anything or ask you questions about your experiences in life or stop to finally smell the roses.
Maybe I should just start filling my grandkids in on Medicare and what I’m learning?