Down the Rabbit Hole: The Alphabet Soup of Medicare

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DISCLAIMER: the following story is only my experience! Do not use for factual basis or advice, not that you’d want to. You’d be in the looney bin with me if you did. Just sayin’.

Medicare: this is a positively monumental experience for most of us. It is a literally coming of age.

This is my story.

So, what happened to easy to follow directions? I miss kindergarten where it was all about using safety scissors and learning how to glue.

Timing: prepare for hours…day…weeks…years? Pack a lunch. This could take a while.

The steps look a little…what’s the right word? Ambiguous?

Did you know that you’re supposed to register for Medicare with the Department of Social Security three to six months in advance of your birthday? No one told me? How does anyone know that? Did I miss a memo or a piece of junk mail or is this something you’re just supposed to know how to do like eat with a fork or saying please and thank you?

So first, I had to go on the Social Security website to sign up to be able to sign up. Or I could just go to the Social Security office. The mere thought of standing in line with my little paper number waiting for it to ding on the sign as I listened to nauseating Muzak… not my idea of a good time. Government websites are scary, but their offices can be scarier.

Oh look – I found a clue! I feel like Sherlock…

rabbit holeThese official looking BIG envelopes look like they are from Medicare, or an insurance carrier, or AARP… Well, they’re really from an independent insurance agent who seems to have received some sort of notification that I am now officially old enough to target. I wonder when they learn that trick in insurance school.

They send these internet related keys that are supposed to be only for me, but how am I supposed to know? I called the help line, but I wasn’t fooled. They want to get me as a customer, but I think I can figure this out for myself.

I hope.

But the more information I read, the worse it got. Paper began stacking up on my desk.

As I read through the mountains of paper I had been receiving, my eyes began to glaze over. I needed to call in the troops…but who are the troops?

I believe in community so I figured I’d crowdsource some help on this thing. I talked to my sister and friends who have already done it.

My friend Linda told me, “I think I am pretty smart but… I’m doing it with someone else so we cannot lose our minds!” She is quite smart. If she can’t help me, I might be helpless.

Well, it helped a little, but I still felt like I killed a few too many brain cells and I might be descending quickly down the rabbit hole.

Is there anyone I ask? Can you just tell me what to do!

Well that depends.

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author and friend, Maria

The official information is enough to cause anyone to question their sanity. I began to call it alphabet soup. Parts A and B are basic Medicare. Okay, I was fine with that. But then if you want more coverage you need to tack on supplemental plans. They’re listed A through N or something. Serious alphabet soup. Why can’t they use some other designator like colors or animals or something? Anything else but more letters!

Seriously, there is an alphabetical list on the left side of the chart that tells you about some parts of the plan. On the top of the chart is another alphabet with the kinds of coverages you can elect to supplement. They aren’t different letters. It is all the same jumble.

Hey look! The Drug/Pharmacy plan is called Plan D. Finally, something makes sense! And, of course, it is about drugs. I don’t just feel like I’m in Alice in Wonderland. I feel like I am in Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic “White Rabbit” song.

I really don’t like to think of myself as old but this really feels like it is part of that Luminosity memory training challenge.

And this is only the first year. I have the privilege of doing this every single year if I want to. Shoot me now!

From all of my online belly-aching, one of my friends took pity on me and suggested an insurance agent she knew who specialized in Medicare. Score! That was just the ticket. I am usually quite self-reliant but my brain felt like those old commercials with the eggs: “This is your brain on Medicare…” I give up!

Oh, wait, there are a few more gems!

Are you familiar with the tier of drugs? Seriously, I think it should be tears of drugs. By the time I got to figuring out what I needed, I was positively sobbing.

And they send you a card for Medicare like you would get for any insurance plan. It has your social security number on it! Hasn’t the government ever heard of identity theft? Sure, I’ll just carry that with me everywhere…

Bottom line tips:

  • Find a doctor before you turn 65 who takes Medicare patients. After this nightmare you don’t want to have to pick a new doctor, too.
  • Find an insurance specialist who handles this kind of stuff and start talking with them before you need it. It will save you from the same PTSD.

How Names Influence Perception: Community and Aging

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You know what I don’t like? I don’t like the word “elderly.” I’m not a big fan of “senior citizen” or “person of a certain age,” either. There is no perfect option it seems. When you go to a store that offers a discount by age they call it a senior discount. I sometimes think I would like to hear “wisdom discount” instead.

See, the words we use have meaning. For instance, “elderly” and “elder” have entirely different connotations. I don’t need to tell you which one is negative. Yet, our society doesn’t see much wrong with the use of these terms to describe individuals past middle age. I admit, I am not even a particular fan of the term “Baby Boomers.”

So where does this leave us? Well, as it turns out I am not the only person who isn’t a fan of the names we currently use for people in my age group.

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How Community Living Can Make you Healthier

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I often talk about the financial aspects of community living options as we age. It is really great to be able to pool money and resources and live in shared house or community. Other subjects that frequently come up with this topic are companionship and caregiving. However, there are a few more hidden benefits we can take away from sharing a home or an intentional community with other like-minded adults as we age. Community living can make us healthier. Here is a look at some of the ways this works.

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60s, 70s and 80s – Why We Don’t Stop Counting at 30

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You know one thing I am kind of glad most people don’t seem to do anymore? Lie about their age! There was a long time in our culture where discussing a woman’s age was a strangely forbidden subject. I’m sure it stemmed from the devaluing of women as they age past childbearing years and if I were a sociologist I would study it. I’m not, though, so I’ll simply embrace it and encourage it.

Our 60s, 70s and even 80s can be the best times of our lives if we want them to be.

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What is a Crone and Why Should You Care?

photo credit: Foxtongue via photopin cc

photo credit: Foxtongue via photopin cc

There are a lot of words that can be used to describe elder women and not all of them are flattering. They might include hag, biddy, battle-axe, shrew, and harpy. But there is a better word which we can reclaim and use to emphasize wisdom and the lessons we’ve learned throughout the first two thirds of our lives.

The word in question is Crone.

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Tips for Staying Healthy: Things we Attribute to Aging that Aren’t

I just read the most fascinating article. I think it may have changed the entire way I think about aging. How many times have I ignored aches and pains or mood shifts and attributed it to my age? I firmly embrace my age, I don’t try to run from it, but that doesn’t mean I’m honest with myself all of the time. I’m pretty sure most people aren’t.

I think the most important take away from this information is how to determine what is “normal” and what might need a closer look. Let’s look at some of the conditions mentioned in the article and see how we can keep ourselves healthier and in control of our own lives.

1. Grumpy old man behavior. While Grumpy Cat might be an internet sensation today, for decades the image of the bent and wrinkly old man shaking his cane and taking about things were much better when he was a boy was the gold standard for age related crankiness. Everyone is entitled to be in a bad mood from time to time but a permanent frown isn’t necessarily a sign of aging. If a sour mood affects your personal relationships, ability to work or sleep, or any of your everyday functions it might be more than just a bad day. If you are unable to identify a cause for your foul mood it may be time to talk to your doctor about depression or other health issues that cause emotional irritation.

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Celebrating Our Connections

Women for Living in Community is not just a website or a place to meet others interested in this lifestyle. Certainly that is a part of it but there is more we can do as advocates. Part of our mission as women paving the way toward a culture of change surrounding the way we age is redefining the entire paradigm. What does it mean to live in community and what makes it different from the experience most people are having today?

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I suggest that one of those ways, as we forge our own families in community, is to continue celebrating. I don’t necessarily mean a birthday cake with candles and party hats but really diving in to the meaning behind celebration. I believe that women building community have a chance to share our message with the world through the value of hospitality.

There are so many ways we can celebrate our continued vibrancy as we live in community with one another. Spontaneous dinner parties, game night, open houses, and “croning” ceremonies are all excellent choices. So what are these things and how can we implement them in our shared households? Let’s look at them one by one after the jump.

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