Tag Archives: Medicare

The older I get, the more I sound like Dad

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

“I keep opening my mouth and my mother keeps coming out.”

I saw that saying once and laughed when I heard it. I never thought I’d be living it.

What do I mean? Well, my father had this habit of adding years to his life. It seems that whenever he celebrated a birthday he would start referencing his next birthday whenever the question of his age came up. The next-year reference wouldn’t start on the day of his birthday, but it would commence about a week or two, maybe a month later.

I’m not making this up.

Dad died just a bit past his 59th birthday, on Sept. 7, 1980.

I’ve since gone a good bit past that point in my own life. I’m 64, about to turn 65.

And what I’ve discovered myself doing is referencing my next birthday.

I don’t say that I’m 65. Instead, I usually say, “I am going to be 65 in December.” I’ve been saying that since, oh, this past June.

Why am I sounding a bit like my father? It might have something to do with the anticipation I’m feeling toward retirement.

I become eligible for Medicare benefits when I turn 65. I’ll start collecting a small pension from a previous employer effective on my 65th birthday. I’ll become fully vested in Social Security when I turn 66, so that date is looming quite large as well.

As for Medicare, I learned some time ago that my Veteran Administration health care enrollment makes it unnecessary for me to sign up for any of the supplemental coverage that Medicare offers — and I had that notion reaffirmed by a friend of mine who works extensively with elderly medical patients.

It’s not a bad thing that I’m sounding more like my father. He was a good man with a fairly compelling and outsized personality.

Perhaps I should take some advice that my mother offered many years ago. I’d say “I can’t wait” for something to happen, or “I wish it was the weekend.”

Her response: Don’t wish your life away.

The older I get and the closer I get to retirement, Mom’s advice is coming in loud and clear.

Hooray for socialized medicine!

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

Update: My Medicare card arrived in the mail today.

It arrived much more quickly than I was led to believe it would get here. It doesn’t matter.

I’m quite thrilled about it, to tell you the truth. My Medicare benefits take effect Dec. 1, which is 16 days before my 65th birthday.

The most curious feeling I have at the moment is this strange desire to get sick enough to present it to a health care provider. It’s not that I’m wishing bad things to happen. It’s just that now that I’ve got this Medicare benefit card, I’m strangely anxious to use it.

Is there something wrong with me?


The United States Postal Service delivered an important piece of mail to me today.

It came from the Social Security Administration and it informed me that — get ready — my Medicare hospitalization insurance takes effect in December.

I think I’ll remember this day right along with the day I got my draft notice.

I’ve just taken another step toward retirement. Man, it feels good.

The application was far easier than I thought it would be. I logged in at usa.gov, assigned myself a goofy password, filled out a questionnaire, swore that everything I said on it was factual and true, and then submitted it.

I’m now in The System.

As I mentioned here before, I will forgo all the various parts A, B, C, D … whatever. The Veterans Administration health care system — in which I also am enrolled — is likely able to take care of other health needs if and when they arise.

We’ve heard a lot lately about “socialized medicine.” Critics of the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — just can’t stomach the idea of The Government providing health insurance for people who don’t have it. They’ve sought to demonize the notion of socialized medicine.

It’s a hilarious effort to walk themselves back from a program that’s been in effect since 1965.

For nearly 50 years, elderly Americans have had access to socialized medicine. It’s working quite well.  This December, when I turn 65, I’ll receive another piece of mail from the Postal Service. It will be my Medicare card, which I’ll get to show health providers when I need medical care.

Now, that socialized medicine system — Medicare — has another customer.

That would be me. I’m happy to be on board.



Keeping it simple with Medicare

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

I knew this day was coming. Finally, I took the leap.

Health insurance providers have been bombarding me with reminders that my date with Medicare destiny is approaching. I’d been setting those mailings aside. Today, however, I decided to do the inevitable.

I made my initial application for Medicare.

There’s good news to report. The website is surprisingly easy to navigate. I called up Medicare.gov and went to the link that connected me to the application process. I filled out several pages of questions. I previewed them. I printed them out. I received an email alert from Medicare telling me my application had been received. I was informed that I could get the “status” of my application after five business days.

I’ll do so at the end of the week.

I turn 65 in December. I’ll be qualified to receive the so-called “free” health coverage provided by the federal government. Of course, I don’t consider it a freebie. I consider it a prepaid benefit, just as my veterans benefit was paid by my service in the U.S. Army for two years from 1968 until 1970.

I’m trying like the dickens to keep it as simple as possible. I’m not yet sure how many “parts” I’ll sign up for. I’m not even sure I understand what all the parts — Part A, B, C, D … whatever — actually mean.

I was advised by someone in the know that since I had signed up with the Veterans Administration health care system, I likely might not need to enroll in many Medicare supplemental programs. I’ll try to keep it simple as this application process moves forward.

This is a curiously exciting time in my life. My wife and I are living a good life these days. We’re both free of much of the daily pressure of working full time every day. I’m working at two part-time jobs that give me plenty of time to spend on this blog, which I’m enjoying immensely.

Our sons are successful. Our health is good.

What’s more, I’ve now begun the process of joining a federal health program that once had as many critics as, say, the Affordable Care Act. It’s working well now.

Count me in.

Medicare info overflows from my mailbox

This is another in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

My 65th birthday looms just a few months down the road.

Someone must have ratted me out to every health insurance company on the planet. Nearly every single day our mail box contains something from someone telling me about my Medicare options when I hit that magic number.

Maybe I should send them all return slips telling them “Stop sending me these mailers.”

Would they heed my command? I doubt it. Strongly.

They’ll keep coming.

Here’s the latest on my Medicare sign-up planning: I have given it hardly a thought.

Medicare was that genius legislation cooked up during the Lyndon Johnson administration. President Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law in 1965. Unlike the hassling and haggling over the Affordable Care Act, there was little overt opposition to the then-new law when the president signed it.

Yes, they tweaked the provisions within the Medicare program once they figured out how to solve the problems. They didn’t toss it all out and start over, which is what many ACA critics keep insisting must be done now. To borrow a phrase from Col. Sherman T. Potter: buffalo bagels!

Medicare is still a seemingly complicated matter. My mother-in-law is on it and my intrepid wife is forced on occasion to sort out some kind of issue with it as it relates to her mother’s health care.

You’ve got parts A, B and D. I think that’s it. Whatever happened to Part C? Maybe it’s part of the pile of mailings I’ve gotten, but have just missed it.

Someone advised me once that my Veterans Administration health care coverage — which, of course, is prepaid — would be sufficient, that I wouldn’t need to mess with Medicare.

I’ll get to poring through the Medicare mailings eventually. Maybe I’ll decide on a plan to cover me in case I get sick.

It can wait. All these mailers make my head hurt.

ACA deadline passes, the sun rose this morning

What do you know? The Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment deadline passed and Planet Earth didn’t spin off its axis.

Here’s another tidbit: The White House announced that it met its enrollment goal of 7 million Americans signed up for health insurance. Was the deadline glitch-free? No. But it came, it’s history and millions of Americans who didn’t have health insurance before have it now.


Let’s remember, though, that critics will continue to declare the law a total failure. They’ll continue to assert that the president runs the most “lawless” administration in the history of the Republic. They’ll suggest the White House “cooked the books” on the ACA enrollment numbers. They’ll likely have more votes in Congress to seek to repeal the law.

President Obama asserted the following today in a White House Rose Garden ceremony: “There are still no death panels. Armageddon has not arrived. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans.”

We’ll need to remember that many of the ACA’s basic tenets came from Republicans. One of them, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, helped push through a health care law in the Bay State that became a significant model for the federal law that was enacted in 2010. Romney would try to distance himself from his own creation as he ran for president in 2012. The strategy didn’t work, as Americans re-elected Barack Obama.

Yes, some Americans got an extension on the deadline. Those are the folks who got hung up in the application process. The White House gave them a few extra days to finish it up.

Where this law goes from here remains a bit of an open question. It shouldn’t be repealed. It needs tweaking, just as Medicare needed it when it was created in 1965. That program has been a godsend to elderly Americans.

Of course, GOP efforts to toss out the ACA will continue. However, as more Americans sign up for health insurance and report back the positive impact of that coverage, there might be enough of a reaction that sends a stern message to ACA critics: Back off; the law is working.

Obamacare rollout numbers put in perspective

I got to listen to a lot of yammering through most of my workday today about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the enrollment numbers released today by the White House.

The yapping came from Fox News commentators who — not surprisingly — were calling the rollout a disaster and the initial enrollment figures a testament to the incompetence of the Obama administration.

Then I read this article one of my dearest friends on the planet shared on social media. It tells a different story.


It says essentially two things: One, while the enrollment numbers aren’t great, they compare favorably with the initial enrollment of those in Massachusetts who became covered under what’s been called “Romneycare,” which is former Gov. Mitt Romney’s version of a mandated health insurance policy enacted in his state. Oh yes, and Romney campaigned unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2012 by running against the Affordable Care Act. The second thing the article notes is that despite the troubles with the healthcare.gov website and all the hoo-hah associated with it, the computer program stands a decent chance of getting fixed.

But that’s not what the conservative media are telling us. They’re insisting that the ACA is a disaster. They say it will never work. They insist that the computer problems are but a symptom of a failed policy.

President Obama made promises he couldn’t keep, to be sure. He said no one would be denied health insurance if they were happy with the policies they have. That’s turned out to be not the case. Is it his fault? Well, he is the president of the United States, the man in charge. It’s on his watch and he should take the heat — which he is doing.

I am unwilling, though, to give up on the Affordable Care Act. I feel the need to remind my friends on the right — and on the far right — that Medicare rolled out in 1965 with some significant glitches in it.

President Lyndon Johnson was in charge then and he managed to work with congressional leaders of both parties to fix the program. Does anyone want to scrap Medicare now? I didn’t think so.

The article attached to this blog analyzes the problem with a decided lack of passion.

I think that’s how we all should examine the ACA and look for ways to improve it.

Wrong to scrap ‘Obamacare’?

A great Native American philosopher — Tonto — once told Kemo Sabe that “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

The Lone Ranger’s sidekick was right. It also serves as a reminder of what’s happening today as congressional Republicans keep yammering for the end of the Affordable Care Act, citing the disastrous rollout as evidence of the law’s failure.

Dial back to 2006, therefore, and let’s remind ourselves what many of those Republicans were saying about another big-government unveiling, an amendment to Medicare benefits, that didn’t go so well. It came under the guidance of a Republican administration led by President George W. Bush.

Congressional Democrats were gleefully calling that rollout a disaster and were criticizing the Part D amendment to Medicare purely partisan grounds. That was the first wrong.

Republicans sought to remind their Democratic “friends” that they all needed patience and needed to tweak the changes. Let’s not toss it all out, they urged.

They tinkered with Medicare and today it’s working pretty well for the elderly Americans who rely on it.

The ACA has had trouble getting off the ground. Who’s doing the yammering now? Republicans — on what appears to be purely partisan grounds. There, folks, is the second wrong.

Democrats are now urging the same level of patience that the GOP sought seven years ago when President Bush sought to make changes to Medicare.

Republicans are having none of it. They want the ACA tossed aside. It’s no good. It doesn’t work.

Interesting, though, that they’ve made a judgment on a law that hasn’t been implemented fully.

Tonto’s advice to the Lone Ranger is as sound now as it was when he said it in the old days.

‘Monkey court’ label heats up hearing

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., has just made a name for himself by attaching an unflattering name to a congressional hearing in which he was a participant.

He called a committee meeting a “monkey court” while chastising his Republican colleagues critical of the Affordable Care Act.


He didn’t need to use that kind of language to describe what’s supposed to be a serious hearing on a very serious matter, which is the implementation of the ACA that is meant to provide millions of Americans with health insurance they can afford.

I fear it’s just the beginning of what figures to be a highly contentious time leading up to — and perhaps beyond — the 2014 midterm elections.

Pallone believes his Republican colleagues are trying to “scare” Americans into opting out of trying to log into the troubled healthcare.gov website because their intent is to destroy the ACA. I’m not going to ascribe motives to politicians I don’t know. However, there does seem to a pattern developing, with Republicans not wanting to give the ACA any grace period before jumping down the throats of those who support it.

I happen to agree with critics who want someone to be held accountable for the hideous rollout snafus that have developed with healthcare.gov. That someone well might have to be Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, on whose watch this mess developed.

Let us not take that huge leap just yet. As Van Jones noted on a recent CNN Crossfire segment, Medicare had its serious problems when it became law in 1965. Congress and the White House tinkered with it for years before working out the bugs.

Is anyone now willing to get rid of Medicare? Hardly.

The Affordable Care Act needs some time. So, let’s dispense with the monkey courts.