Writer Patricia Hitchens reflects on reaching Medicare age | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Writer Patricia Hitchens reflects on reaching Medicare age

There may be less choice when it comes to where patients get their healthcare. But there is certainly no lack of entities who want to handle your insurance, from the government to private insurers.

That’s true especially as you get older. 

Writer Patricia Hitchens finds it all adds up to feelings that range from annoyance to dread. 


The Medicare come-ons BEGAN coming in January.  How odd, I think, Mother died four years ago.   What a pain, getting her junk mail again.

Actually, it is my junk mail.  I discover that the intended “Medicare Recipient” is not my mother, but me.

Most of the Medicare mail is not from the government or Social Security, but from companies hoping to cash in on the profit potential of baby boomers. Why be satisfied with government insurance? the pile of envelopes seems to say.  We’ve got you covered! Their contents include scads of grinning oldsters making the most of their sunshine years -- all exuding heart-felt relief at having made the “right” choice in healthcare coverage.

Because I’ve been fending off AARP since my kids were in middle school, I decide to give them first crack at me. Featuring a photo of a forty-something woman under an ominous thunderhead, it begs urgently for attention.

Turning 65? asks the envelope. Worried about your health care coverage?

Well, yes, I admit, and No. My health and my health insurance are both excellent.

The inside cover invites me to Meet Ava – who, coincidentally, also turns 65 this year!         

Instead of cowering under a fearsome thunderhead like the AARP woman, the Blue Cross people are all smiling, some even laughing over some shared funny story.  Often they are also clutching a spouse, adorable grandchild, fishing rod or golf club. One couple is even rolling around on the grass, like the people in those erectile dysfunction commercials.  I can almost hear the announcer intoning, Will you be ready?

Humana Healthcare’s packet is more down-home, with a snapshot-style picture of a heavily made-up celebrant behind a birthday cake. This birthday, remarks the adjacent copy, brings with it a Special Opportunity. 

But I don’t want this special opportunity, not from Humana, Blue Cross or United HealthCare.  At least, not yet. Because I’m not ready for what it comes packaged with: a peer group I don’t like the sound of.  

Notwithstanding the youthful types in these Medicare brochures, they are aimed at senior citizens. Citizens otherwise known as “old”. “Senior citizen” is supposed to have been trotted out during a political rally as a pleasing euphemism for “elderly”. I remember when “senior” sounded terrific: I yearned to be a “senior” in high school, couldn’t wait to become a “senior producer” at my TV studio, and later at my consulting firm, preened when promoted to “senior consultant.”            

If adding “senior” to “citizen” once sounded honorific, today it sounds anything but - which is why I balk at my prospective new packaging.  Take the deprecating “senior moment”: it means not an idyllic interlude - but terrifying seconds of lapsed recall. While I am considered productive now, in one month will I automatically stop functioning, disappearing “over the hill” into senior-citizen land?  

My husband and I have wills, long-term care insurance, beefy retirement accounts.  All against a far-off need, sometime in the distant future. Yet with all that get-ready-for- Medicare mail jamming the front porch mailbox, said future no longer seems way down the road. Instead, it squats just outside our door, a thief lying in wait.

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