Every year around this time, millions upon millions of people are anxiously waiting for it to arrive. The anticipation, the beating hearts, the excitement of what surprises are soon to come!
That’s right -- it’s time to pick up your 136-page “Medicare and You” brochure!
The list of what Medicare covers is conveniently located on page 29, or about 28 pages too late. With trembling hands, you flip through the thick booklet of unfathomable, unreadable fine print sent to everyone over 65 asking you to choose between plans that are designed to be the best -- not so much for you, but for whoever’s running them. If you’re like me, you’ve considered gluing the individual pages to the living room wall and throwing darts at them. It’s as sound a way of choosing as any other. If a plan pays for one thing you need, it’s guaranteed not to pay for the others. So you need supplemental insurance, which means another round of reading small print and making choices by dart.
You know what’s odd about growing older? How unaware people are of our decline. I’ll give you an example. When you’re a young child with the best eyesight you will ever have in your entire life, they print books with letters eight inches tall. You couldn’t miss a word of “THE CAT IN THE HAT.” When you’re old, they print the letters so small you can’t read them with a microscope. There’s a section in my local library of large-print books. Who do they think is reading “The Girl on the Train”? Six-year-olds? Why isn’t every book in large print?
The people who put together our Medicare enrollment brochure must believe that as we get older, it somehow gets simpler to decide if we need Medicare Parts A, B, C, D or F, or a combination of all of them. And we have to decide every year because -- well, I have no idea why. But my sister always says, “If you see some human behavior that is unexplainable, it usually has to do with alcohol or money.” My sister is a nun. The only rational explanation for this “A, B, C, D, and F” nonsense (other than that Congress is alphabetically challenged) is money or alcohol. Or both. Someone has to be making money off our choices, or getting drunk, or else why do they exist?
Which of the two main plans do I want, Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage? What does that mean? How would I know? Why do I have to make this choice? Why isn’t it just plain “Medicare”? All those times they deducted out of my paycheck I don’t remember getting a choice. Why isn’t it simple? You turn 65 and Boom! You get it. Instead, it’s like one of those TV shows where you have to swing over lakes, climb ladders, bounce off tilted pads, jump through hoops of fire and in the end, you still lose.
I just got on Medicare and already I have to renew or change my choices. What’s it going to be like when I’m 87 and have a hard time remembering how to use the remote for the TV? By then, the brochure will be 500 pages long, and the choices will include X, Y, and Z before starting again with AA.
How long will it be before someone starts an H&R Block-type of company for seniors confused about Medicare? Each year, instead of taking a box of receipts to an accountant because doing our own taxes is too complicated, we’ll have to schlep a box of our medicines down to a Medicare Adviser who will do all the work for us, and charge us for the pleasure. It’s the government’s idea of job creation.
Yes, I’m sure some kind healthcare professional could explain Medicare and Medicare Advantage and A and B and C and D to me in simple words that I could understand, but that is missing the point. They shouldn’t have to.
(Contact Jim Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.)