May 22, 2012

I made a frightening discovery this morning. It was easier to understand IRS regulations for filing my taxes this year, than it is to understand the publication: Medicare and You, 2012. (Yes, I'm finally getting around to reading ... er ... trying to read it!) You know, that red, white, and blue book you have been sent from Medicare. A third of the way through page three (first main page) I was tempted to go back to the introduction to see if there might be a forward by Rod Serling saying something like. “You have not really lost your mind. You have just entered the Medicare twilight zone.”

Page three sounds something like this: You have Part A (Hospital), and Part B (Medical), because this is provided by Medicare, but you may have to pay something anyway (unspecified). But at least we know it may cost more than if you have one of the ”Medicare Advantage Plans” which combines part A and Part B in a managed health plan. We also know that this is called Part C. So under this arrangement we are led to believe that A + B = C. There’s that confusing algebra again. So how much does Part C cost? (Unspecified, because there are a bunch of companies out there clawing for us to sign up, and they all charge different fees for different services.) This is beginning to sound a lot like Part D, which I am told I might not need if I sign up for Part C, which is also called “Medicare Advantage Plans”. But you may still need Part D even if you have Part C if all of your drugs are not covered by the private company you select for Part C. Why?

I am not even halfway through the first main page. And there are one hundred and fifteen more. In this article we should at least finish page one, don’t you think? OK, let’s go for it!

Now, if you have the traditional Part A and Part B incantations, you will love Part D, and Medicare thinks you should “buy it”. OK, if it covers my prescriptions, I’ll consider it. How much? (Unspecified, because you should read the plans of up to 60 or so insurance companies offering this in your state. Make sure your drugs are included, and figure out which plan’s cost is “right for you”.) Oh, and be sure to eat the donut, but avoid that hole.

I now have a headache, and need to apply something directly to my forehead, or to something on somebody. I’d like to take this booklet and apply it directly to the “bleeeeeeeeeeep” of whoever wrote it. Or the congress who created this convoluted mess.

But wait! We haven’t finished the first main page. There’s MediGap. MEDIGAP? If you have the traditional Part A and Part B, and have figured out whether, and which Part D plan you need, and have decided against Part C, then you should consider a “Medigap (Medicare Supplement Insurance) Policy. You know, just in case A, B, and D missed something. OK. How much? (unspecified, because you need to shop for a plan that is “right for you”) So the new algebraic formula is A + B + D – C + Medigap = _____________. Who wrote this thing? The insurance companies?

By now my headache has become an ulcer, my blood pressure and heart rate are soaring, and I am shaking all over. (Time to ask my doctor if a stiff dose of Valium is “right for me”).

Only one hundred and fifteen pages to go, in this red white and blue twilight zone. (And I think I’m beginning to see a little purplish magenta here and there.)

But at least I have now figured out the real purpose of this confusing maze. If we die trying to understand the basics of page one, Medicare will become much more solvent for those who refuse to read instructions. Those crafty government people!