Hitting the Medicare Milestone

Just some of my fan mail.

The flood of mail started around September and hasn’t let up yet. I will turn 65 – the magical age for Medicare – in January and I’ve received at least two… or three… or more letters, brochures, and flyers a day begging me to sign up for this Medicare plan or the other.

Those of you who live in a country that considers healthcare a right for every citizen no matter what age, feel free to shake your head in pity and not read the rest of this post.

As I was perusing the various plans—and the options within each—I thought about how my upcoming birthday changes my appeal to the insurance companies. At 64, healthcare coverage on the open market is somewhat limited and very expensive. Even in good health, someone that age is viewed as a potential drain on their bottom line. But, as soon as my odometer clicks over to 65, I’m desirable again.

As far as I know, I will continue to get older and, as far as I know, the natural aging process can will eventually bring health challenges. Yet, they all want me to sign up for their plan.

I’m pretty sure the insurance companies aren’t offering me reasonably priced healthcare coverage out of the kindness of their hearts. Whatever agreement they’ve worked out with the government must benefit them financially.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for Medicare and the comfort having good coverage brings. I just have a sneaky suspicion that it isn’t as cost-effective as it could be. Insurance companies rarely lose when negotiating with our government.

Anyway, after looking through all the options—and wondering why the heck this needs to be so complicated—we’ve made the decision that we think is best for us now. Next year, and every year going forward, we will have to reevaluate, based on our current circumstances. As we get older, I imagine this annual reevaluation will become more difficult. Call me crazy but it seems that having one plan that covers everyone would be easier to manage and less expensive.

If you, or a loved one, will turn 65 in 2021, I encourage you to start doing your homework now. There are many decisions to make and missing certain deadlines can be costly. You might feel overwhelmed and/or confused enough to want to just ignore it all together. Don’t.

Attend a few seminars if you can. Talk to your friends, family members, and colleagues. Ask how they made their decision and if they’ve found any helpful resources. One company you might want to check out is Boomer Benefits. They have a great website that contains a lot of information, answers to common questions, videos, and webinars. In addition, most areas have local Medicare insurance advisers who might be able to help you sort through the various options (at no cost to you).

Good luck and stay as healthy as you can. The best healthcare plan is the one you don’t have to use.

GratiTuesday: Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act

33 years ago today (for some reason I remember it was on Flag Day) what started out as a routine trip to my doctor for a simple, yearly check-up became day one of a medical journey. During the exam, my doctor discovered a lump in my neck – one that I hadn’t even noticed – and recommended very urgently that I have it checked out by a specialist.

Without going into a lot of detail, a battery of tests resulted in the diagnoses of cancer. My world, as I knew it, suddenly tilted and for the next year my and my family’s focus was on my treatments, tests, and getting healthy again.

I am very lucky that my disease was caught early and that my particular type is – and was at that time – no longer considered an automatic death sentence. After going through multiple chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I got through the ordeal and eventually regained my hair, weight, and my health.

aca-logoThe one thing I learned I would not regain is the ability to get health insurance from any other source other than a traditional employer. I now had what insurance companies considered a “pre-existing condition.”  I could never freelance or start my own business. I could never change jobs without having a new position waiting for me with minimal interruption. If there was a probationary period in a new job when I wouldn’t have coverage, I held my breath and didn’t let it out until the wait was over.

I am just one of millions of people in the U.S. who were, before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, considered uninsurable on our own. If we didn’t get coverage from our – or our spouse’s – employer, we had to go without health insurance. It could be a frightening and sometimes financially devastating place to be.

I will be forever grateful that I had traditional medical insurance coverage when I became sick and so very grateful to all of the doctors and healthcare professionals who took care of me. Today, I am especially grateful that the Affordable Care Act has allowed so many people get coverage that would have been out of luck before. The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect by any means but it’s the best we have right now.