• Tag Archives medicare
  • One Last Physical

    Samain                                       Moon of the Winter Solstice

    As 65 nears there is one more physical left under the old, private insurance model.  COBRA, which allows extension of private medical insurance for up to 18-24 months after loss of employment or retirement, if you can afford it, has kept the Health Partners plan in place until February 14th, when this baby boomer adds another droplet to the silver tsunami.

    So, one last time under the private health care insurance model that has bankrupted and made more ill hundreds of thousands in this the wealthiest of all possible countries.

    Tom Davis has seen me now for four years or so since Charlie Peterson took off for Colorado, Steamboat Springs.  Tom collects native american pottery and hopes some day to become a docent at the MIA.  He’s a good doc, a geriatrician in the mix.

    Each year.  Downtown to the Medical Arts Building.  Park in the ramp, find the skyway.  Take the elevator.  Yes, nothing to eat or drink other than clear liquids since midnight.  The blood pressure cuff, measuring my major health problem.  Once by the nurse.  Then again by Tom.  Maybe yet again.

    The ritual questions.  Any difficulty swallowing?  Any changes?  And on.  Probing with words while the eyes watch, looking for signs, fleeting symptoms.  Diagnostics at work, the differential tree now second nature, honed by so many patients.

    Disrobing. The paper gown.  So cute. Poking, coughing.  A reflex tested.  Prostate checked.  Prescriptions refilled.  Blood work drawn.  Urine sample.

    After visit summary in hand, back out through the lobby.  Others wait.  For the blood pressure cuff.  The ritual questions.  The disrobing.

    Next year though it will be socialized medicine and a local HMO taking care of the visit. Medicare is not the problem, it’s the solution.

    The ritual question for solving the problem:  for whom will you vote?

  • Socialized Medicine, Here I Come

    Samain                      Moon of the Winter Solstice

    The end of the day.  Sunday.  Used to go to sleep on Sunday night with Monday whirring away, chattering and buzzing, cutting a channel through my attempts to sleep.  Now I go to sleep on Sunday night.  That’s all.

    Granddaughter Ruth has the makings of a cook.  Maybe.  Her recipe for cooking a turkey:  put it in the oven at 10 degrees, cook it for half an hour.  Put it on a big plate and put green beans and potatoes beside it.  Sounds like my first attempts at cooking a turkey.

    Speaking of retirement.  Didn’t somebody bring that up?  I go to sign up for Medicare tomorrow.  I have my Medicare card already and now have to choose a plan.  Kathryn Giegler will help me as she did Kate.  This is a rite of passage, analogous to getting a driver’s license or that first Social Security check.

    When I went on a quest tonight to solve a computer problem, I ended up in Best Buy where Christmas music played over the loudspeakers.  I found myself cheered by it, rather than annoyed.  It felt familiar, comfortable, mine.  This surprised me.  A Grinch I’m not, but I’ve often found the commercial side of the holiday season a large, unwelcome mosquito that won’t quit buzzing into my awareness no matter how often I try to swat it away.

    Instead I found myself thinking of roasting chestnuts, singing carols, making a roaring fire and having hot chocolate.  Geez.

  • A Decent Insurance Sales Agent

    Winter                                                       Waning Moon of the Cold Month

    Kathryn Kiegler has restored, no, wait that’s too strong, has challenged my opinion about insurance sales folk.  She gave us good advice, walked us through the labyrinth that is Medicare and the various parts attached to it A, B, C, and D, then helped us evaluate a plan best suited to Kate’s needs.  She was clear, patient, gave us the time we needed.  Great person to work with.

    We did hit one weird snag.  Kate had not gotten her part B card, nor her letter telling her she had been enrolled.  Without this letter or the card Kate couldn’t sign up for Medicare advantage at all.  Kathryn called Social Security, finally, after a really long and tedious animated voice, a real human came on the line.  Kathryn explained Kate’s need for the letter, the woman agreed to fax it and all seemed in order.  Except.  By the time we were ready to leave, no fax.  None of us wanted to wait the 10-12 minutes to go through the animated phone information.

    What to do?  Kathryn recommended going to the Social Security and getting the letter in person.  Not a bad solution since the SSA office is on Chicago Avenue and 18th, not all that far from Kathryn’s office near Westminster Church downtown.  So, we drove over there.  Kate went in while I waited outside.  I’m not real patient with bureaucracy.  When she returned a bit later, letter in hand, she told me why we had received no fax.  “The man told me the Social Security Administration never faxes anything with a social security number on it.”

    Hmmm.  Have you ever read Kafka?  Can you imagine, say, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles choosing to never fax something with a license plate number on it?  Yes, of course. Identity theft. I know.  Seems that such intelligent folks could have figured out a solution.  One idea.  When faxing a document to the person whose social security number is involved?  Leave it off and let them fill it in on the other end.

    The really good news in this is that our budget for Kate’s insurance costs was about double the cost we’ll pay.  That probably means the same will hold true for me.  That will remove several thousand dollars a year from our expenses, maybe a bit more.  Where was that cruise brochure?  Maybe we could afford that round the world jet junket?  Nah, even at $65,000 that sounded like a cheesy deal.  The Amazon River?  Egypt?  Possible.  Maybe possible.

  • Finishing the Puzzle–Not Quite Done. But Close.

    Winter                                                              Waning Moon of the Cold Month

    One more piece of the retirement puzzle should get put in place today, Medicaid part D for Kate.  We’re visiting an adviser recommended by both Ruth Hayden and RJ Devick  to help us sort through the overwhelming number of choices.

    Since last year we’ve added social security for both of us, withdrawals from the IRA, my pension, long term care insurance, Kate’s medicare, added funds to our cash savings and trimmed our budget some.  Now we just have to live a few months into this way of getting our cash together and see how it works.  Don’t anticipate any big problems.

    Seems like the most difficult part of all this is the setting up, making choices phase.  After that, barring disaster, things look reasonably smooth for us.  That way, we can just go back to life as we live it day to day.  Because we’ve done so much planning for such a long while now, the transition seems to have been easy, but, of course, it wasn’t.  Lots of legwork, phone calls, penciled in budgets, head scratching over rules and options.    Worth it  though.

  • Oh, boy.

    Samhain                                                Waxing Moon of the Winter Solstice

    Annual physical tomorrow morning.  This ritual obeisance to the gods of health and long life are, of course, futile.  No matter how closely we monitor our health, no matter how compliant with diet, exercise and medicines, no matter how meditative and calm we can keep ourselves, entropy will win the day.  It just takes too much energy to keep us fastened together much longer than 90 years, give or take 10 years.  My goal has been, for a long time, not to die from something I could have prevented.  So far, so good.

    All kidding aside, I’m happy to do these visits once a year since it’s a minimal investment in surveillance of and for my health.  I do have some anxiety each time though.  Any one of these visits could be the one.  You know, the one where doctor calls back.  Ooops.  We need to do more tests.  Uh-oh.  And, I’m sorry I have to tell you this, there’s just no good way.

    In my fantasy this visit never happens.  I live a reasonably healthy life into my late 80’s, early 90’s, then death comes calling.  That’s what I’m aiming for, being healthy till I’m dead.

    My new doc, Tom Davis, is a careful guy, an i dotter and a t crosser.  I like that in a doctor.  He’s also calm, unflappable.  I like that, too.

    This is my next to last physical under the old regime of private health care carried by Kate and paid for jointly by her and Allina.  Two years from now, I’ll be just another anchor on the ship of our economy, dipping into Medicare to pay these bills.

    Here’s to a boring visit and uneventful news.

  • This Day, So Far

    Spring                                       Awakening Moon

    As the awakening moon wanes, its work done, life has begun to take on its growing season rhythms here at 7 oaks.  I’m hunting for weed free straw, leek transplants and onion sets.  Gotta lay down some bulb fertilizer because bulbs need extra help as they blossom.

    It’s been a productive day.  Kate and I finished our budget work for 2011–retirement budget.  It has lots of unfamiliar factors in it:  COBRA for me,  Medicare part B for Kate, shifting to checks from our retirement account, social security.  Some unknowns.  But, we look pretty good right now.

    We had lunch.  Now.  A nap.

  • OH, Yeah!

    Spring                                    Waxing Awakening Moon

    You’re traveling through another dimension — a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s a signpost up ahead: your next stop: deciphering Medicare!  I’m not kidding here.  Kate and I have given this day to determining a post retirement budget and one of the most difficult things to understand is not the cost of medicare, but just what goes with what.  If the explanatory booklet that simplifies Medicare, from a local senior citizen organization, is any indication of what health care reform promises, God help us.

    On the other hand this is an exciting time for both of us, investigating life when Kate no longer has work demands, figuring out the wonders of budgeting when such terms as dissaving begin to make sense.  Dissaving is, you guessed it, spending money you’ve saved.  That’s the basic idea in retirement unless you’re stuck behind the counter at Mac and Don’s with a silly hat and the smell of grease in your gray hair.

    After a while we gave up and went to lunch.  Then a nap.  Now we’re refreshed and ready to get back at the budget process.

    Say, did I mention that I’m proud of the Democrats?  Damn.  Gutsy politics.  The last time we had truly historic reform came under a former senator, Lyndon Baines Johnson who gave us Model Cities and Civil Rights.  Remember the Great Society?  I do.  Except for that pesky war in Vietnam Johnson was a great one.

  • Tires, Novels, Latin

    Winter                                       Waxing Cold Moon

    A productive day.  Moved forward on the novel.  Removed the tire, took it in to Carlson, discovered it would require a new tire.   Over to the pharmacy to pick up meds.  Pharmacist recommended 40 mg pills instead of 20’s.  Cuts our co-pay in half for an expensive med.  Lipitor.  Good deal.  The kind of things that will help us once we’re both on medicare.

    Finished up the translation section of the Latin chapter.  We’ll see, but it seemed straightforward to me.  Fun.

    Work out and tonight at 7:00 pm the first Legcom conference call.    Rock and roll.