‘There’s a lot to learn about being old’

Posted Friday, Sep. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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norman My wife, Sandy, and I were having a discussion about Medicare earlier this week when she hit me with one of those zingers she sometimes says so matter-of-factly.

This wasn’t just a casual conversation, please understand, nor was it one of the journalist-style issue examinations I sometimes plague her with.

In a few days, I will turn 65 and come under the Medicare umbrella. I already have my card, but I’m still struggling with some of the Part A, Part B, Part D, Medicare Advantage stuff.

In other words, I’m confused about everything beyond enrolling online and getting the red, white and blue card in the mail.

“I guess there’s a lot to learn about being old,” Sandy said.

It was funny at the time. She meant it to be, dear sweet Southern girl that she is.

But she was right. Medicare is complicated.

I have a better insight now, I believe, into the complications of healthcare insurance under the Affordable Care Act. No wonder the federal government is spending $67 million to train “navigators” who will help people get it all done right.

But back to Medicare and all its parts. Sandy reminded me of something a nurse friend of ours said: “Try explaining all of that to an 80-year-old.”

I’m not 80, and 65 is not old. It’s the new 50.

OK, I don’t buy that either.

There’s plenty of help available to me in coming to grips with Medicare’s complexities. They’ve got plenty of information online, people available to help by phone and people at the Social Security office who can talk you through it.

I, like a lot of old codgers, enjoy figuring things out for myself. Sandy calls it stubborn; I call it meeting a challenge head-on.

She’s the type who even asks a clerk in a hardware store where to find something. Why do that when you can run across so many other neat tools and things while you’re looking? Heaven probably includes a hardware store with endless aisles filled with remarkable tools and different kinds of duct tape.

I’m trying to get my arms around Medicare Part B. Broadly, I’ve learned, Part A pays for hospital costs and Part B pays for doctor visits and lab tests and such.

I thought Medicare was free. Part A is, but Part B is not.

The thing is, you need to sign up for Part B when you sign up for Part A, or your Part B when you finally do sign up for it will cost more for the rest of your life, which could total up to a lot of money. Initially, it’s $104 a month.

Part D is for prescription drugs, but I’m a long way from tackling that. I’m lucky enough to have prescriptions covered under my group plan at work.

Medicare Advantage is what they call the policies sold by private insurance companies that roll all of these parts into one package.

I’ve read that you can save money that way, but it’s a whole new set of complications that I’m putting off for now.

I called up the Medicare website’s search function that says it will help you find the Medicare Advantage plan that’s best for you.

I got through the part where you enter your ZIP code, but I bailed out when it asked me to list the medications I take. Too many details.

I guess you caught the irony: I call myself adventuresome, yet I hit the exit at the first sign that work would be necessary.

I blame my advancing, not old, age.

Mike Norman is editorial director of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7830 Twitter: @mnorman9

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