"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Oct 1, 2020

We Need Classes to Help Seniors Understand Medicare

Ahhh...October.  Doesn't the mere word feel like Fall's really here, despite unseasonably warm temperatures?  As predicted last week, I turned into a pumpkin at midnight, at least in regards to my medical coverage, but at this point I don't much care.  It'll all work out, thank goodness I've learned that life-lesson, and besides, I've got lesser things to worry about.

I had to wait a week to give Social Security a chance to process my request to reinstate my Medicare Plan B before the end of the month.  I'd unwisely turned it down because I can't afford $144 a month, but this was prior to learning that Oregon would pick up the tab.  My mess was finally fixed two days before deadline, so they claim. What I don't understand is if I must take their word for something, why can't they accept mine?

That rationale came into play when I contacted Oregon's Senior Services on the 29th.  I'd been told they needed to fill out a "Don't take out her deduction" form and send it to the Feds by the 30th, but again I was mistaken.

Outside the office was a sign discouraging walk-ins but I was running out of time.  The receptionist was not pleased to see me but after I babbled my problem she said,

"Go into Room #3, turn on the light and close the door.  When the phone rings, answer it," very Mission Impossible-ish.  I sat at a desk with a plexi screen between me and another empty chair, a box of Kleenex the only decor.  After a while the phone rang and I answered, still wearing my mask.  The woman seemed to have difficulty understanding my words so I yanked off my protection, hoping I wouldn't get into trouble.

She listened patiently, asked a few questions, then told me I seemed to have done everything correctly but couldn't tell for certain or help me further because the agency was getting a new computer system (they were in training), and the old and new systems wouldn't be synced until November.  According to her records I was being ejected from their program as of September 30th; therefore, if I had any more questions prior to November I should contact a different office; one whose computers would show my new classification as an indigent Quimby (QMB)-PLUS, and eligible for pretty much full coverage.  Oh, and, There is no 'don't take out the money' form; it happens automatically, but it can take up to 90 days for the State and the Feds to sync.  I'll eventually be reimbursed, not to worry.  After hearing I needed to do nothing more and that I'd been smart enough to get through this, I floated out of the office.  I even treated myself to a hot chicken from the supermarket on the way home.

Once home I called to thank the nice woman from my CCO, who last week helped me understand and navigate the process.  That's when the last monkey wrench was throw at me: she claimed that as of Sept. 30th I was being kicked out of their plan unless they received the okey-dokey from the State but that hadn't happened yet.  I called the office with the updated information to straighten that out.

"I don't know who told you that, but we show you as only a QMB, nothing extra.  You're not eligible for any CCO plan.  If you were expecting the same care as you had under Oregon Health, huh, you're not getting it."

"That's what my paperwork says, so who should I believe?  What am I supposed to do if I get sick?  Where do I go (now that I'm cast adrift)?"

"Dunno.  You'll have to call someone."

What the hell?  Her 'new' system didn't show the extra 'Plus' benefits I am entitled to and despite insisting I had written proof from the State, she wouldn't take my word.  Whoever said computers could take the place of  old-fashioned pulp?

"Well, if your paperwork says you have the PLUS plan then you ARE eligible for a CCO and all that extra stuff.  Hmmm...wait, I don't understand, so I'll transfer you to someone who can explain the codes."  Before I could question that rationale she transferred me until I was cut off.  After calling back and again waiting on hold, my free Government phone suddenly notified me I'd used up all my minutes, but I could buy more.

"F___ that shit," Amy screamed. I've got black and white proof that I'm covered.  I'm not sick and I don't need medication, thank God, so I've got time to allow the system to work itself out, or not.

But what about others?  I said this to every person I spoke to:

"I'd considered myself relatively intelligent...until this."

And to a person they responded:

"Believe me, if I wasn't working here I wouldn't understand what to do."

Why don't they send us all to a class during our 64th year to explain this bureaucratic nightmare?  You know it would take far fewer manhours if we were able to ask questions and hear all the options, together, rather than piece-mealing it to us individually.   Not everyone understands the first explanation and some are too embarrassed to admit their confusion, but I have no such compunction.  A fellow I know, broke as me, has been paying for his Plan B for over a year before he ran into the right person who explained what he needed to do so as not to pay in the future.  As a friend said, "You have to be talking to the right person."  That hardly seems fair.

I've been contributing to the system since I was younger than this photo, working for the U.S. Army in West Germany in the 1970's, so it's not like I haven't paid my dues.  I just made poor investments, financially and personally, and unfortunately we don't use the Barter System, although that might not be a bad idea from here on out.

So after all that I'd like to offer this bit of advice:  if you're poor as a church mouse, don't turn down your Plan B when the government makes the offer until you talk to your local Senior Services office.  You might be surprised at how they can help.  Take the time and ask questions over and over if you don't understand, and have them repeat the information several times if necessary.  If you say No like I did, it's a major pain to get that fixed.  Good luck, and happy 65th!

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