Medicare, and other pitfalls of turning 65



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In case you can or can’t tell by looking at me, I am officially on Medicare. Starting on the first day of the new year, my new global catchphrase became: “Do you take Medicare?”

“Why, yes, we do,” squeak the millions of ads that have saturated my news feeds, social media and mailbox every day for a year now. It’s almost as though this rollout prior to one’s 65th birthday is on some kind of government timer, because it is! But hey, bring on the discounts, the reduced-fare MetroCard, plus the free psychological shrinkage after a $200 annual deductible — I earned that prize.

However, is it possible that the Medicare team could revisit and contemporize their email copy, which presents as dated, tired and a bit gray-speak condescending. Tonally the writing style strokes the hair very gently, but content-wise it reads as a ticking bomb of the eight-to-10 subtle signs of impending death that apparently are being ignored. Click here, the emails say, if you want to know how you’re doing this whole aging thing all wrong. . . .

Additionally, thematically, there’s a lot of conceptual “trust” being bandied about as well. As in, “Dear So and So, we’re honored to be on this Medicare journey with you as we understand this important relationship is all about trust.” Well darn, there are only a few coverage options to choose from, so maybe it’s about trust that we chose the least offensive and most cooperative one.

“Take your time,” they say.

Don’t mind if I do!

One day you’re 64, and health care emails are as gruff and unforgiving as anyone reading this rant has probably experienced. A day later, as you start planning for the big 6-5, all these sites suddenly want to hold your hand while you’re crossing the street.

Read: 6 places to turn for help with Medicare enrollment

Is this why there are parties for the momentous day, like a farewell gift, sending you off to the misty Medicare moonlight because now someone has to hold your hand for the rest of your journey?

I am aware that the hand-holding might be useful one day, but I doubt any Medicare copywriter will guide me personally to the other side of the road, unless I’m headed toward an off-ramp, so to speak.

Also see: How to compare Medicare plans and pick the best one for you

Enroll now or suffer forever

Further, this whole Medicare shebang is not free, which I didn’t realize, and don’t know why I didn’t, so there’s that story hole to fill.

Also, the government wants you to be on medication. You must put yourself on a prescription plan or you’ll be penalized for all eternity. And isn’t that what this Medicare stuff is about anyway, taking you to the finish line?

Even if you currently require no daily medication, there’s no reward or kudos for that; in fact, you have to pay regardless. They’re just saying the loud part quietly, that you will need it one day, and they “trust” you’ll want to buy those products via them at a reduced rate.

Oh, and that oh-so-hilarious AARP status, the symbolic butt of the standard old-age joke, they’re actually not making funny. They sell insurance. Or there is Medicare insurance with their name on it. Which happens to be the most comprehensive plan for everything that you pay for, which I thought would be free, which is not covered. Wait, what. . . ? Supposedly. We’ll see.

Also on MarketWatch: Medicare drug-price negotiations are on: Seniors could soon get a big break on drug prices

Because ultimately, you’ll step away from the computer and the boomer live TV and all the advertising that comes in the mail and on your feeds, and you’ll figure out the maze that is the sign-up process, which by the way, you probably will need someone to hold your hand through.

You’ll reenter the world as someone who stepped over the threshold of 65, and thank goodness for that. If it seemed impossible to be any more invisible than you once were as a middle-aged woman, think again. There are so many new roads to uncover.

Whether you’re in a line at the grocery store and you’re pushed to the side or can’t see over the fish counter because you’ve always been short, but now you’re shorter. Or you’re draped at the corner bar, drinking beer, eating forbidden French fries, listening in on barstool conversations that mirror pieces of the lives you’ve lived in the past, say, for 65 years. Some of these people are old, like you. I mean, me.

See: Do I need to enroll in Medicare if I’m still working at 65?

Never mind the projections though, the confusing emails, the unwoke language, the societal woes related to aging. You can bounce those inaccuracies right back to their sender, especially if it happens to be you. Which is what I’ve learned throughout this process, that my moodiness with this Medicare business might just be because it’s ringing true.

You can’t pay for fries with Medicare, though. I’ve asked.

Jenny Klion’s writing has appeared in Ploughshares, Longreads, The Rumpus, Food52, Prevention, Tonic, Purple Clover, The Hairpin, and more.

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, ©2024 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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