Here’s the punch line: Get a good insurance agent. Mine is Wendy Reed Johnson [right]. She didn’t cost me a thing, and saved me a ton of angst.
For years in my cost-cutting edition series I’ve been blogging about my experiences as a highly activated shopper for medical services, most recently six months ago when I announced:
Well, it’s six months later, I’m turning 65 this month, so on the first of the month I went on Medicare. (In some situations you can wait, but I opted not to, so I had decisions to make.) Considering how much I blogged in that series about insurance shopping in the past, including the difficulty of figuring out the right plan for my needs, you can imagine that I was anticipating more misery. But Wendy asked the needed questions, laid out all my options, and in short, made it easy.
I highly recommend that before you approach 65 you hunt for a Wendy. Find someone who’s a delight to work with – for you, because people are different – and who, when you ask questions, is happy to hear them and can answer in a way you understand.
IMPORTANT: Medicare is not one big system that you just sign up for. It still has many many options and flavors. Plus, you have to pick one plan to cover doctors, another to cover hospitals, and another for prescription drugs. Frankly, I refuse to get into explaining here the perverted and needlessly complicated terminology (Part A, Part D, blah blah blah). I prefer to pay my agent to understand it. (Except I don’t have to pay her.)
In my case, a major factor was that most New Hampshire plans are limited to New Hampshire physicians, and my primary physician (the famous Dr. Danny Sands) is in the next state, Massachusetts. I also don’t have complex prescription needs at this point, etc etc.
Of course time will tell how it all plays out. But I’m tough, and I’m happy.
p.s. About Medicare: it’s worth repeating what I said in that “six month countdown” post –
In 2012 I heard a speech by the great author and columnist T. R. Reid, who toured the world living in different countries’ health systems and wrote The Healing of America. In his talk he said (paraphrase):
Medicare in America looks like socialized medicine – it’s government-run universal coverage. But we also know it can’t be. Why? Because Americans hate socialized medicine, but they love their Medicare. So it must not be.
Ah, politics – especially the politics of healthcare, and the crazy, delusional perceptions of some people. Well, while we work on changing that, we still have to do business and take care of our needs. Find a good agent.