Big Hearted

Big Hearted

I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, went for a bicycle ride today. Riding by myself, I was able to go 20% faster than otherwise. As I turned towards home, I spied this giant inflatable heart. I don’t know how I could have missed it, when I passed by before. This photo doesn’t really do it justice, because it was Yuge! It was big enough to walk through. Your path models the path of blood flow, in on the right-side and out on the left. All of the heart’s major components were labeled, atriums, ventricles, valves, arteries and veins. The inflatable heart was part of a larger display the dwelt with heart health issues. CPR dummies were setup for practicing on and it looked like there was much else, but since they were still setting everything up, I decided not to pester anyone and soon departed and continued my heart healthy practice of cycling. Bernie Sanders made the news recently, when he suffered a heart attack. He seems to be recovering, but his event is a reminder that all of the leading candidates for president are septuagenarians, even Elizabeth Warren. Bernie’s heart attack is a reminder that at least he has a heart.

Placebo Effect?

Improved Empty Capsules

All kidding aside, back in the day there were lots of good reasons to buy empty capsules. Prescriptions were often filled in bulk form, leaving it to the patient to parcel out the individual doses. Much like patients today fill their weekly pill cases, in the past patients were expected to fill their pill capsules. The advertized rather arcane capsule size “00” holds about 735 mg.

I got a bike ride in today. It was a nice tranquil ride, with a nice mix of other cyclists, including bike commuters, young people out exercising and old farts like me. I got out in the morning, before the heat really set in. Anne and I have Gyrotonics tonight, so I’ll certainly get my exercise for the day.

It looks like our artistic son is getting invited to join the movie and TV union that he has been working in, while on probation, for the past year or so. I guess he found enough Italian ancestry in his background to meet their requirements. This is a job with enough salary that he could make a living wage in NYC or live like a king anywhere elsewhere. The problem is to quote Groucho Marx, “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.” There is another show business union that he would much rather join, but he has not worked in it, let alone been invited. As a parent, it becomes frustrating when you can no longer helicopter in and save the day, but on the other hand it is a good sign of how well we raised our sons that they have these kinds of problems. 

Pieces of Eight

Pieces of Eight

Anne and I are on Medicare and this week, I had my “Welcome to Medicare” physical and boy was it through. I won’t be sharing any of its details, except to say that when I finally returned to the front desk, the two receptionist were surprised to see me. They both thought that I had left the office long ago. I left feeling that I had been thoroughly poked, prodded and examined. I expect to be certified if not exactly healthy, at least grossly normal, when all of the tests are compiled. The only blip was that our longtime doctor announced his retirement.

I was checking the state of our exchequer and was pleasantly surprised to find that we are running significantly under budget for the year. I attribute this to two things: 1) Switching to Medicare, with its lower premiums than Obamacare and 2) Spending two months with the in-laws. We certainly paid our fair share of expenses at the cabin. I can still hear Harry complain about not being able to pick up all of the tabs, but both cost sharing and the low cost of living helped.

Hurricane Dorian has certainly made its presence felt. I hope that its intensity and erratic behavior does not signify that something else is going on, like Climate Change! It’s a good thing that Dorian “unexpectedly” swerved north, missing both Mar-a-Lago and Alabama.

The pictured Spanish doubloons are part of the Mel Fisher sunken treasure trove that is on display in Key West. Spanish treasure galleon Atocha was the source of the loot. It was sunk in a hurricane. The captain’s last words were probably something like, “I wish I had gone to Alabama instead.”

The Cavalry Has Arrived

Seattle Waterfront Carousel at Miners Landing

The cavalry, in the form of Jay and Carl arrived last night, reenergizing the cabin’s Feng Shui. Unfortunately, while they are here, I am no longer the youngest person in the house, but on the other hand, I am far from being the oldest. That honor goes to Harry, followed by Bubs. Living with them brings home the necessity of planning for our own elder years. We can see through them that old age is not for sissies. In preparation, I have been paying more attention to senior issues. A recent NPR article reported that the Mayo Clinic has listed five habits that older people should adopt to help combat the onset of dementia. They are the following:

  • Not smoking
  • Exercising at a moderate to vigorous level for at least 150 minutes a week
  • Consuming a brain supporting diet
  • Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption
  • Engaging in late-life cognitive activities

I think that we are in pretty good shape with these. Anne is five for five and while I am only four for five, the report also stated that that is all you had to be. I could work on trying to the make the fifth one.

Another report stated that a leading cause of elderly deaths is the result of falls. In this report, Tai Chi was mentioned as an excellent means of maintaining balance, not so much spiritually, but in this case more importantly in a physical sense. To this end, I went to my go-to educational source, YouTube U and watched an instructional video on the subject. It was only a lesson for beginners, but it seemed easy enough. I think that when we get back home, we’ll look into taking a class. As part of our new Medicare coverage, there is a rider for something called Silver Sneakers, which is supposed to cover exercise expenses.

Medicare (Part 2)

African Daisy

Today, we met with Colton, our Medicare broker. Broker being the fancy name for insurance agent. He works for us, but gets paid by the insurance companies. The insurance companies have factored in the cost of a broker, into all their premiums. So, in a sense you are paying for a broker, if you use one or not. After the seminar that he held last week, it was natural for us to choose him. In the seminar, he dispensed general information, but when we met him today, at Panera, it was all about us.

It looks like we’ll be going with basic Medicare (Parts A & B). This is pretty much a gimme. We are going to go the Supplemental route (Plan G). We chose this over the Advantage path, for two reasons. First, because we do so much traveling. The Supplemental route is good nationwide, where as the Advantage plans are more regional. The other distinction is that it is easier to go from a Supplemental plan to an Advantage plan than visa versa, because other than at initial Medicare enrollment there are qualifying medical questions that you have to answer to be accepted into a Supplemental plan.

We chose Plan G over Plan F, the other most popular Supplemental plan that is available, because starting next year, all Plan F insurances will stop accepting new customers. If you are already enrolled in Plan F, you can keep it, but we fear that over time the dwindling and ageing insurance pool will lead to higher insurance costs.

Finally, Colton was able to find the most affordable Part D plan for Anne. Due to a miscommunication, my Part D requires another iteration, but there is still plenty of time for that. I haven’t even received my Medicare card yet.

In the end, we will get Medicare health insurance for less than half of what we are now spending on premiums for Obamacare and with much lower co-pays and deductibles too. It sounds like a win-win, because we have been carrying Obamacare insurance primarily as bankruptcy insurance, hoping that we don’t ever have to use it, because using it would double our costs. Plus, that means you are sick or injured. We’ve been lucky. Let’s hope that our luck holds.

Medicare for One

Tree of Life Window, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1904

We are currently wrestling with Medicare. In this struggle, my old lady is on point, but I am not too far behind. We are racing to make sense of this mess, so that we can switchover from Obamacare to Medicare on time. We have been receiving plenty of help in this endeavor. Daily mountains of mailings arrive, all with the single underlying message, pick me. Then there are the calls. We haven’t exactly been idle, but the clock is ticking and time is starting to run out, at least for one of us. I still have the luxury of relative youth, plus the added benefit of being able to learn from the experiences, both good and bad, of others.

I shouldn’t really be so surprised at the byzantine nature of Medicare. It is a huge bureaucracy, second only to the Department of Defense. Birthed in discord and fought over by Congress since its inception, every part of it bears the hallmark of compromise and there are very many parts and even more plans. More on that later. Please hold your questions until the end, but think wheels within wheels. Compared to it, Obamacare was a walk in the park.

Anne already has her Medicare card or at least one. She can collect all three and win! Or instead, choose one card to rule them all. My application is still under evaluation, having only been made last week. These things take time and she is way ahead of me on this, but she’s older too or did I mention that already?

To help make sense of all this nonsense, we attended a seminar last night. It was held at the hospital where David was born. It too was a bit of a sales pitch, but was much more low-key than the financial retirement course that we took, a few years back, whose underlying message was, [Fear] only we can save you [Fear]. The speaker was a capable lad. His mission was to plow through eighty charts, in just one hour, with questions, lots of questions. After a few charts, he went off teleprompter, answering questions and speaking more extemporaneously.

Things that I learned: Everything that at least two names. Why? Just because. If it’s a Part it is from the government. If it’s a Plan, it is private insurance. Well mostly, please see Part C below. The “donut hole” still exists and it isn’t going away. Trust a broker. Why? Because they said so, besides it’s “free”.

Both Anne and I have our online Social Security accounts. Wait, how does Social Security enter into all this? It’s complicated, just do it. With your Social Security account you can then apply for Medicare. I have applied and am now waiting. Anne has already applied, has a card for Parts A & B, a Medicare number and most importantly a Medicare login. She has even gotten her first bill already. Now she has to decide which path to follow, Supplement or Advantage.

With Supplement she needs to collect two more cards. One for Part D (drugs) and one for Plan A, B, C, D, F (maybe), G (probably), K, L, M or N. If she gets all three she wins! Or, she could chuck it all and elect to take advantage of Part C, which really is a plan, but is not the same as the Plan C just mentioned above. Got it? Moving on. In this case she would just have one card to rule them all. Now Anne has compiled a list, a very little list of the 51 plans that are available here. That’s just one Plan C card short of a full deck.

She has just two weeks to decide what she wants to do. Really only one, because of travel. No really, more than four months, but at a higher cost. I have even longer, because I am so much younger, but I really shouldn’t keep harping on that, because she might see this and not be so amused as I.