Our Medicare broker suggested that I might try a supplemental plan that would cost me nothing.
Nothing? Yes, nothing, for the federal government in cases such as mine subsidized the insurer $14,000 annually, he said. All I had to do, it seemed, to avoid the dreck of in-network, out-of-network, inexplanatory explanations of benefits, co-pays, referrals, deductibles, and such was to stay healthy, as, for the moment, I am, I think.
I admit I was beguiled. After paying $220 a week for I don’t know how long so that Mary could be protected to some extent from the slings and arrows of misfortune, paying zero for a supplemental plan (in addition, of course, to the $134-per-month Medicare excisions from our Social Security checks) was tempting.
I could do what I wanted to do, Mary said (an invitation to act that carried with it, I thought, a vague hint of impending catastrophe were I actually to do what I wanted to do).
I could do what I wanted to do, she continued, but only if I were unambiguously, incontrovertibly aware that she would no longer, no longer, act as my administrative assistant, personal secretary, drudge, slave, or whatever. Unless, of course, I were certifiably up against it and not merely feigning utter incompetence.
And then — because she’d actually read the brochure, something I rarely stoop to do — she recited a long list of pointed questions that I should ask before plunging in.
As for her, she was opting for peace of mind. In other words, she was willing to ante up more for an AARP supplemental plan that did not include bills, co-payments, lists of in-network hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies, et cetera — one that would obviate all the annoying phone calls, all the reviews of itemized charges (“Five dollars for an aspirin?!”) . . . all the dreck, in short.
“What if you’re on the operating table and the anesthesiologist is out-of-network,” she posited — an example that struck a chord with me, for that sort of news has been imparted a couple of times in my explanations of benefits. “I’d ask him for a few slugs of Jameson’s then.”
Seriously, it didn’t take me long to decide to side with her. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
There was a visible and audible sigh.
I had done the right thing.
New hearing aids are coming soon! And now when the I.R.S. calls I won’t have to hand the phone to her.