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I Got Medicare for My Birthday

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I Got Medicare for My BirthdayI turned 65 this February. I knew I would have to sign up for Medicare, but what happened after that? I didn't have a clue.

Actually, I found out that I needed to sign up for Medicare several months BEFORE I reached my 65th birthday. Seems timing is everything when you are signing up for Medicare. If you don't receive Social Security benefits by the time you're 65, you need to apply to enroll in Medicare. 

You have a seven-month window, or initial enrollment period, to sign up. It begins three months before the month in which you turn 65 and ends three months after your birthday month. That ensures that everything takes effect when it should. 

Armed with this tiny bit of knowledge, I took a trip to our local Social Security Office and joined the rest of the folks by taking a number and sitting quietly to wait my turn. Turns out there are a lot of interesting reading options in the waiting room. 

What caught my eye, though, was a small video screen running bits of information you need to know if you are signing up for Medicare, Social Security, Disability Benefits, etc. Amazingly, you can actually take care of a lot of this yourself by going online to their website.

After about 20 minutes, my number was called and I made my way to the little window to talk to the gentleman on the other side. Turns out, he was new at the job, we made a great pair-but a helper soon appeared, and after a few questions, I had an appointment to return in two weeks to talk with a Service Representative. The wheels of government were beginning to turn for me.

During the two week waiting period, I decided to "get smart" about Medicare and actually found a book, "Retirement for Dummies," which was supposed to make EVERYTHING easier when navigating the ins and outs of Medicare, as well as other things relating to retirement. 

It seems, Medicare, over time, evolved into four parts:  A, B, C, and D. Then there are supplementals and Medicare Advantage, Veterans Benefits, and Medicade.  Okay, it seems Medicare has a whole slew of out-of-pocket expenses and doesn't cover all medical services. So all the extras are options you might be eligible for, depending on various circumstances. I was still trying to figure out the four parts so I decided not to get involved in options just yet. I did figure out that, for me, I only needed Parts A and B, and I learned exactly what those parts meant and what each part covered. 

Okay, all of this sounded simple enough and I was more than prepared for my date with the Service Representative. The appointed day arrived and all went well. He asked me some questions, and I answered as best I could. Then he ran a printout of my past work history and determined I was, indeed, eligible to sign up. I filled out some paperwork and was told to expect my Medicare card in two or three weeks.   

The Medicare card arrived prior to my birthday. Do you remember turning 30 and then 50, and how you felt about those birthdays? I do, and both were very difficult birthdays for me. I was staring getting older in the face and I DID NOT LIKE THE IDEA.  Well, receiving the Medicare card was like turning 30 and 50 at the same time. What a downer! 

It really made me feel OLD - until that time, turning 65 had not really bothered me. But a Medicare card is for OLD people and now I had one. Even the red, white, and blue patriotic theme on the card didn't help my spirits. My husband is five years older than me and has been a Medicare cardholder for some time, so I asked him how he felt. I explained my reason-that having the card really put me into a funk because only OLD people have Medicare cards. He just gave me a strange look, shook his head and headed outside to talk to the cats. No help there!

I had finally reconciled myself to being old enough for Medicare when a letter came addressed to me. Seems it was a billing for my first three months of Medicare (this, even BEFORE my birthday) in the amount of $299. Part of my early retirement package is that I chose not to draw Social Security until I turn 66. So now, not only did I have a Medicare card, I had a bill for something I had not even used yet!  Then, I did some quick math and realized that this little red, white, and blue card had an out-of-pocket cost of approximately $1,200-$100 per month until next year when I turn 66, at which time it will be deducted from my Social Security Check. Some birthday present!   

I feel certain many of you reading this post have been or are in the same predicament.  It is quite a helpless feeling trying to come up with an extra $1,200 with only a set amount of money on hand.  I have to do it because there is no way out of Medicare.  However, my negative attitude is very slowly turning positive because I visited the doctor a week ago and didn't have to write a check for a copay, thanks to Medicare. I have also learned that we can go to any doctor or specialist we choose, even if our secondary insurance is an HMO.  We don't even need referrals. WOW!

My advice to those of you who have not signed up for Medicare but are getting close, don't forget to find out the cost of joining the "65'rs".  I didn't and I'm still reeling from shock. Happy 65th birthday to each of you!

To read more blogs by Kimberly, click here.

Kimberly Johns, My Journey Out of Debt Customer BloggerKimberly Johns

Kimberly has been on the CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP) for just under a year. Kimberly is very active in the Community Forums, some of you may recognize her Community user name; Tiquie. Recently retired, she is going to share how she and her husband manage the financial challenges of living on a fixed income. The John's have found some really creative and fun ways to offset the limitations of a retirement income, which Kimberly is generously planning to share in her My Journey out of Debt blog! Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • Be glad it's there for you to use. I'm only 26. Been paying in for a decade now, four decades to go til 66, and not at all convinced I'll see a penny of anything IF I ever get to retire.

  • Happy Belated Birthday my dear friend!!  I wish it could have been you were receiving $1,200 instead of paying it!!  Don't feel old just because of a medicare card.  You are young at heart!!

  • Jamie, we are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  With these uncertain economic times, I'm more and more convinced that planning for the future is almost impossible.  I'm starting to feel that taking one day at a time is the best I can do.  I understand your concerns and, maybe even, fears about your future.  Young people like you shouldn't have to worry about retirement and money to live on if you do retire.  This Medicare issue is terrible and frightening to a lot of the older population too.  

    I don't feel the Medicare program is the problem - rather it is the politicians who keep spending and borrowing.  I'm not talking about just those in office now but those who were in office as much as 20 years ago.  No one seems to get the picture that this crazy spending has to stop.  Those of us enrolled in the CareOne programs know that and have learned the lesson the hard way.  How difficult is it to understand that if the money isn't there you can't continue spending.  

    Thanks so much for reading the blog and for your very astitute comment.  Keep thinking positively about your future and you can make it!

  • Thanks, mdavis.  In my mind, I don't feel as if I am 65 - isn't that strange?  There's a saying, "You are only as old as you feel"  and some days I feel about 100.  But, I love where I am too because I feel absolutely free.  Retirement is really a wonderful thing no matter how much money you do or don't have.  Looking back, I think this is the best part of my life because it's MY time now and totally my choices!  I love retirement and hope when you reach this stage of life that you feel the same way.

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