Lifestyle, Opinion

Brotherton: Handle with (Medi)care

In a couple of months I’ll celebrate my 65th birthday … though celebrate might not be the appropriate word.

This means it’s time for me to sign up for Medicare. Medicare! What the heck? I ain’t superannuated. I ride my bike 50 miles in the same day. I go to rock concerts in dark, dingy clubs. I know who BTS and Wanna One are, and Halsey, Khalid and Finn Wolfhard for heaven’s sake!

I do, however, think it’s swell that the government doesn’t want me to miss out on a benefit I’ve been paying for since my voice changed and hair actually grew on top of my head.

Anyhoo, I know Medicare enrollment beckons because my mailbox is stuffed each night with reminders from AARP-approved UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co., Tufts Health Plan (“Dear Neighbor: Protect your health and the lifestyle you love”) and others seeking my business. I have a stack of these things; all are filled with colorful graphs and charts.

And confusing information.

I admit, I’m easily befuddled. I want to make an informed choice. I don’t want to make a mistake now that will cost me more money in the future, when I’m likely to be feeble and grouchy and screaming at kids to get off my lawn, which will be overgrown with tangled vegetation like the Amazon jungle … because I’ll be feeble and unable to start the lawnmower, assuming I can find the lawnmower.

I thought enrolling in Medicare would be simple. I thought I could go to the Medicare or Social Security website or to The Google and type in “I’m still working full time and I’m on my younger, hot wife’s Blue Cross plan at her work. Do I have to sign up for Medicare? Which plan(s) should I sign up for now?”

How silly of me. Nothing is simple these days, especially for simpletons like me.

I read dozens of articles. I pored through the solicitations from health insurers assuring me their plan was the best. I sought advice from friends and co-workers. I knocked on the doors of my neighbors, who, I guess, didn’t hear me, because they’re old. Online articles offered conflicting info. The government websites were alphabet mumbo-jumbo.

This much is clear: Part A offers hospital care, and it’s free. I want me some of that. Part B (doctors’ services), Part C (Medicare advantage supplemental plans) and Part D (prescription drug plans) cost money. Do I need these? Depends (oldtimer joke not intended) which article I read.

Eventually, I panicked and took decisive action. I actually picked up my flip phone and called the local Social Security office. I should have done this right off the bat. I explained my situation and within 60 seconds had my answer: sign up for only Part A now and contact them when I am no longer covered by my wife’s policy. No need for Part B yet; my wife’s  health insurance at work is my primary coverage and Medicare will serve as a backup.

The reams of materials I read implied that I’d have to pay a penalty fee if I delayed enrolling in a Part B plan after I reached 65. Nope, when my wife retires, gets laid off or otherwise stops working for her current employer, a Special Enrollment Period exemption would apply.

Great news. I hope they’re right.

So, I’m all enrolled. Did it online. I guess it’ll be cool to be the first of my friends to carry the red, white and blue Medicare card. Maybe it’ll get me a senior discount at the liquor store.

Hold on, my landline is ringing. Oh good, my wife grabbed it. She’s yelling down from upstairs. “Honey, some guy’s on the phone selling medical alert buttons. He asked for you personally.”


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