Retirement Quandries—Donut Holes and Paper Trails

An excerpt from Elaine Decker's hilarious new book...
Retirement Sparks: Reigniting the Passion for Life - Irreverent Observations on Retirement

Irreverent Observations on Retirement
Those who are retired or who are caregivers for a retiree will likely relate to the saga from one of my semi-annual checkups. It was the first time I used my insurance since I’d turned 65. I presented my Medicare card, but could not find the one for my supplemental coverage. I rooted through a rubber-banded stack of cards an inch thick. Bank card, AAA, two AARP, countless membership and contact cards, a variety of appointment paperwork as far ahead as next summer. But no United Health card.

I stood there feeling half-naked, as though I had been caught without my “Friday” panties. By dumb luck, I had next month’s bill in my purse, so they took my information from that.

That night I scoured my purse for the missing card. It was there all along. That second AARP card I mentioned? A supplemental coverage card branded with the AARP logo. The provider’s name, which is what I was searching for, was buried in the mice type.

That experience added fuel to a fire that was sparked by some insurance paperwork that had come a week earlier. Since I had completed my first month on Medicare, I received a report of my prescription drug claims for September. As I read closely, I realized I was holding the first accounting of my march toward the infamous donut hole.

You’ve probably heard of the donut hole. It’s that gap in coverage in a range of prescription drug payments. Coverage stops from $2,830 to $4,550 and then picks up again. I’m on several prescription medications, but if I’m ever taking so many drugs that I pass $2,800 a year in claims, I’ve been scarfing far too many donuts. Still, attention must be paid.

The report I received caused a bulb to light up. Not only did I now have multiple health insurance cards, I’d have to set up a complicated system to track my medical expenses. I’d need to record date of service, doctor’s name, amount billed, date and amount paid by Medicare, ditto for supplemental coverage and for payments I made. I hadn’t met my deductible, so I’d need to track that, too.

I was suddenly reminded of the later years of my widowed mother’s life. My sister would come from Vermont and spend a week with our mother in New Jersey every summer. One of Barb’s tasks was to sort through all of Mom’s medical expenses and payments so she could file any errant claims. There were few personal computers back then, so everything was posted to green ledger paper using a system our late father had set up years earlier.

Since I lived closer, I took our mother to doctors’ appointments, on special shopping trips and out to dinner occasionally. The medical paperwork was Barb’s contribution to Mom’s care. I remember thinking even back then that I had the better end of the deal. Now I feel that I owe my sister big time.

Back to my present day paperwork. I was finally feeling somewhat in control again when a hefty packet arrived in the mail. Turns out we were about to enter the much-hyped “open enrollment period,” that once-a-year window when we can change our health care coverage without penalty.

Be still my heart. I spent much of August figuring out what coverage I wanted. Did they really think that just two months later I was going to change my mind? (No comments, please.) I supposed I should at least open the envelope and skim the contents. What if there was something I needed to do even if I didn’t want to change plans?

My lack of knowledge embarrassed me. With my self-confidence waning, I was compelled to check my panties to make sure I was wearing the right day. I discovered they were inside out, so I couldn’t tell. At least they were clean and free of holes. My mother would have been proud.

Copyright Business Theatre Unlimited
Retirement Sparks: Reigniting the Passion for Life - Irreverent Observations on Retirement

Available at Amazon

Elaine Decker, Author
Retirement Sparks


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