« Book Review: 'Our National Monuments' by Q.T. Luong | Main | Ctein's Unexpected Print Sale: $950 Dye Transfers »

Wednesday, 15 December 2021


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Passing along a couple of potentially useful links re Medicare. I have not yet had to deal with it but it seems fraught with potential traps.



Good luck.

My brother just signed up with a small, local cellular phone provider. When he calls them with a problem, a live person answers on the second ring. Yeah, I was flabbergasted too. I can't believe they stay in business.

I hear ya, Mike, I'm dealing with the SSA bureaucracy myself at the moment, including the added delight of their lockdown protocols.

But I'm commenting to note (rant?) that standard Medicare does not cover things like dental and eye care, which only become more important as we age. Supplemental insurance can be had, but it may be more cost effective to get it all bundled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Hopefully your marketplace plan includes all this.

It's about more than just teeth and eyes--dentists, optometrists, dermatologists et al are frequently the ones to detect many potentially serious conditions early enough for intervention.

One Medicare Catch-22 that seems to snare many is that one is required to sign up for a minimum level of prescription drug coverage. The penalty for not doing so is a permanent increase in one's Medicare premium. The longer you go without, the higher the penalty.

Good Luck Mike!
I had a similar experience years ago when applying for a passport. I thought up to that point in my life, my middle name was Christine, but it was printed Christina on the original hospital birth record. My poor mother had my name picked out for months before I was born as: Dawn Christine, but after a difficult birth involving lots of pain meds, a beside argument with a priest, and a roomate with a newborn daughter named: Arlene, I somehow became Darlene Christina. Now you see why mom always called me, Darr.

I definitely get it. We recently put my wife's parents into a nice, city-run assisted living apartment (the kind with meals and various levels of care. It's quite good). It's $7000 a month for the two. Their retirement is about $3700 a month, which is not enough for the rent, but too much to qualify for Medicaid, so you have to not only figure out how to apply for Medicaid, you have to establish a special trust that holds their money and only allows spending on things like toothpaste and diapers. You do that with a lawyer. All to be considered poor enough to have a place to live in their final years. It's a paperwork nightmare. I don't understand how people without decent computers, good internet and college degrees and endless patience get through it all.

Johnston,Si, Johnson, No.
I’m certain you’ve had misspelled last name issues in the past. Unlike you however,I have an uncommon last name (it’s not really “Kafka”) which is frequently mangled by those whose job is to enter it into a database.
Over these many years I have learned to live with this rather trivial inconvenience.
Dealing with government workers, is quite another annoyance…

Hi, Mike

SSA can be a nightmare with which to deal. My considered opinion after both personal experience and some decades of attempting to deal with them in a law practice: their records are often inaccurate or incomplete, the agency is an organizational mess, and their computer systems are not up to standard. Ideally, the agency would be scrapped and re-started from a blank sheet.

Unfortunately, due to the legacy data they have, legacy data systems, and the fact that tens of millions depend upon them for their month to month existence, it's not quite that simple.

When I need to get something straightened out for a client and I can't get anywhere for a year or two, I find that contacting my US Senator or House Representative's office works best. Their locally-based constituent service staff people are there to push SSA and other government agencies, rather like ombudsmen.

My surname was spelled incorrectly on my university diploma. I never bothered having it corrected.

Good luck with your Medicare stuff. They tell you to apply 3 months ahead of time. (Maybe you did.) That's what I did last summer and it went smoothly.

>>> Helpful Hint <<<
I had ACA insurance before Medicare as well. You need to cancel your ACA insurance on the healthcare.gov site and give them a date. Do it as soon as you know when Medicare will start. Telling your actual insurance carrier does not do anything. I informed my insurance carrier and stopped paying my premium but kept getting a bill. Luckily I straightened it out with having to pay more.

Also use an agent to help you select a supplemental plan. They can be very helpful and it doesn't cost more. Good luck.


I have come pretty close to that prediction. We use ting as our cell phone provider. When I’ve called they have answered the phone, with a human, virtually instantly, and always solved the problem I called about.

Sorry to hear of your problems.

I have had a recent experience with a company called Thule. They make roof racks, roof boxes, bike racks, etc.

Anyway, I had a problem with one of their bike racks and the nice lady said no problem we'll just ship another rack to you. Keep what you need and let us know when to collect what you don't.

What more could you ask for?

No company will come up with such an innovation until wages have fallen far enough to make it profitable.(because people will not accept talking to people in low-wage countries because those people are ... well, what they are). Probably you do not want the economic situation which would allow this to happen. Probably it will happen but, like bankruptcy, so quickly that you will not gain advantage of it before the zomby mob beats down your door and eats you.

FWIW Mike I love these stream of consciousness blogs. On that vein I'd like to relate a photo experience.

I was recently thrown out of a cafe... well asked to leave in a authoritative manner.

The reason it seems is because I was taking photos in the cafe without permission and making patrons feel uncomfortable. The thing is that the camera I had on the table, and was accused of using, was a Canonet QL19 loaded with FP4+. I had been taking pictures in the park and had finished the roll. The film was rewound back into the cassette in the camera, and I was fussing with it.

I showed the manager, an impressively assertive young lady, that this was the case, but it made no difference. I was accused of using my phone to take pictures as well. I looked around at everyone else looking at their phones and wondered how she could tell, but by then I had decided to move on. I'm glad I did not show anger... despite feeling that way.

On the way out I noticed the lady in the corner breast-feeding her child and suddenly I figured it out. I *do* look like Harvey Weinstein, and then I felt bad that she might have felt intruded on enough to complain. Of course I was not taking photos of her with either the Canonet or my phone but these days who can tell.

Apart from being irritated that I had to find some where else to get my coffee and cake, no harm was done.

I did then spend some time ruminating on the actions of middle aged men that have made others fear us. I don't think that there is much we can do about it except continue be good, what ever that means.


The question is do you want Medicare, or a Medicare Advantage HMO, with Medicare RX drug coverage. I'm on a Blue Shield Inspire HMO, that covers all of my doctors plus Hoag Hospital Presbyterian.

Lots of things to check-out.

As someone who is an "Antony" rather than the more common "Anthony" I feel your pain! I've had to spend most of my life correcting spellings of my name.

This story reminds me of a similar personal story of mine. When I first arrived in France I had to apply for my visa (which doubles as an identity card). I'm Australian, so there was always the joke that it was easy to mixed up with being Austrian. I mean, it's "al" away right? It never happens, perhaps only maybe in geography class, but it's always a running joke.

So I apply for this visa in France, it is a over 6 month wait with 3 different 3 hour waits at the government office and my first card comes back with my nationality as "Autrichienne" not "Australienne". I was floored. Especially since Austria is in the EU so you didn't need a visa if you came from there!

I went back to the counter and pointed out this error to the lady. She looked at it in shock and said ... "Ouaah! C'est grave comme erreur!" I didn't any French at the time, but I did remember this thinking, OK not good.

It took me another 6 months and 3 more 3 hour waits to fix this.


I am finishing up my 2nd year of Medicare and yes it is confusing at first. Medicare gives you part A which covers 80% of your Medicare bill. In this day and age 20% of a med bill could put some in the proverbial poor house. Now you purchase a Part B plan to cover that big deductible. Part B is taken out of your SS but the plan I have from Aetna actually pays back into my SS leaving me with med ins. costs of about $50 or so a month. Not bad. Yes there are plans C&D as well but after B we are above my pay grade of knowledge and you will pay for those. I am pretty happy where I am. (Hope you get that typo fixed)

I am about fifteen years older than you, giving me an additional fifteen years of dealing with idiotic situations like the loop that you are caught up in. However, my mother-in-law died a few weeks ago and we have descended to yet another level of hell by virtue of starting to clean op her estate. Some of it simply boggles the mind!

[Sorry to hear it, Peter, on both counts. --Mike]

The Internet does strange things sometimes. Recently while trying to use my phone for driving directions and being unsure of exactly where I was, I chose as my starting point "Current Location" which the phone determined (using GPS?) to be Bangladesh. I was in Vermont.

[I had a similar predicament once. I dropped off my dogs at a kennel in Rochester and asked the iPhone for directions to "Rochester airport." I immediately got directions to the Rochester MINNESOTA airport, 14 hour hours away by car. I tried several alternatives, each time with the same result. Finally I had to look up the complete formal name for the Rochester, New York airport (Frederick Douglass - Greater Rochester International Airport) and it finally relented and gave me what I needed.

You know what Doonesbury would say--"still a few bugs in the system." --Mike]

Hi Mike,

Two more moving pictures from Kafkaland: one from 1976 and one from 2016. Trailers can be found on Youtube.

Not really uplifting films, I must warn you; monsieur Klein ends up in a train with destination Auschwitz and mister Blake has a fatal heart attack. Well… these are the dark days of the year.

Keep calm and carry on!

A suggestion for dealing with the SSA: call your congressperson or one of your senators for help. Years ago I had a problem getting a refund for a tax exemption for which I clearly qualified, and no amount of correspondence produced a response. I appealed to one of my senators and received my refund in less than two weeks.

I have discovered, belatedly, that when confronted with a phone tree, I immediately press 0 (zero). I am almost always connected to someone who can direct my call.
This seems to work 95% of the time...

[The other 5% of the time, try pressing multiple 0's. That works sometimes when a single 0 doesn't. --Mike]

It’s many years into the future. TOP is long gone, and Michael Johnston has gone on to his great reward.
He is greeted by Saint Peter at the gates of heaven:
“Michael my son! Welcome. Come, I want you to meet the boss, he is anxious to see you . . .! Just take a seat in my office, just to fill out a few forms. Okay now, it’s Johnson right??”

On Medicare, once you get it, I recomend getting part G add-on winch also requires that you get part D. PArt D is cheap but has what the Medicare workers cal the doughnut hole. It means you will pay a lot on first use that then settles out. Not much comfort in that, but that is the way it is.

Also, make sure you realize the if you buy into all the hype about Medicare Advantage and opt for it, you can never go back to standard Medicare. Highly recomend you stay with standard program. None of the companies trying to sell you on Advantage will tell you about the downsizes.

If you issues with SSA persists contact your federal congressman. I bet the they will get it straightened out quickly.

I feel your pain. About 5 years ago, the Tax Office in the UK decided that I changed my DoB and that is similarly difficult to correct.

Seinfeld Season 3, Ep 11 'The Alternate Side' - Jerry says of wedding vows - "Do you take this man in sickness? That's the only time I need somebody there. Rest of the time, go out, have a ball, do whatever you want, but if I get the sniffles, you better be there."

That's Australias ace in the hole. Our best bit. The bit that makes up for every and anything else for which we are corrupt or crap at. Our free medical care system is incredible. Need microsurgery to reattach a severed hand? No problem. Total cost, $0.00. Knee replacement? Same same. And on it goes.

Strangely, we don't get any help with dental care, unless you can tolerate greater than 12 month wait times AND you have a very low income.

My point? You really need help when you're sick. It should be your governments top priority. But it's not. And everyone just accepts it? Good god man, what's wrong with everyone in your country?

I accept that Australia is a particularly rich country. But what is not understood overseas is that we also pay high taxes. Yet we don't mind our taxes being spent on health care for all. Because it's a universal priority.

You also have a lot of ex military in your political ranks. 75%, give or take. Whereas we have two or three ex military people in our whole political system.

Maybe that's why we spend so little on defence capabilities, leaving more available for medicare.

Random info, my favourite song has a verse "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace". Peace and health to you Mike, at this time of life and this point in the year.

“In the mail”? We’re all online in the Southern Hemisphere!

RE: pressing "0" before even being asked, if you are ringing an office where you have had problems getting answers in the past and where the phone keeps ringing but no one picks up, it can be helpful to dial, let it ring once or twice, hang up, then hit redial, let it ring once or twice, then hang up again and repeat. Do this a few times and someone eventually thinks there is something wrong with the phone and picks it up out of curiosity and, hey presto, they are forced to try and deal with your call.

Yesterday I went to renew my driver's license, 29 days late, expecting the worst. The location had changed - 1.5 years ago I learned. The new one (nearby) looked closed but was just uncharacteristically un-busy.

"Our machines are down so we can't issue a new license today ... but we can take your money and application, give you a receipt to show if needed and your real license will arrive by mail in three days or so."

The three clerks took applications from the two customers in the place (I was one), made photographs, collected money and apologized for the inconvenience. I was done in six minutes.


Mike, I found when I retired that my last name has an extra “t” on my SSA account. No issues yet, as I am not old enough for Medicare yet. I know I need to fix it, but was trying to wait until the offices reopen. Who knows when or even if that will happen! To bad I can’t just give you my extra “t”!😄

Reminds me of the movie Brazil.


when mom died there was the usual things to deal with

the ssa's bit was nightmarish

after a couple of phone calls that went nowhere i gathered up everything, drove to the office, got my number, sat in a crappy plastic chair with my coffee and documents

when my number came up i went to the cube of an obviously harried woman

i smiled, she didn't

i told her mom had just died and i was bumping up against these issues and i hoped these were the relevant documents

she offered her condolences, took my binder and fifteen minutes later everything was right with that bit of the world

short story long...these people have a thankless job made worse by all of us who expect way too much

i worked face to face with the public for forty plus years and i can say unequivocally...we suck

approach it all with a smile and patience and generally it just sorts itself out

I have an Medicare Advantage HMO issued by a large national company. They also do health insurance for company plans.

There is a huge difference between Medicare Advantage companies. Some are excellent, others not so much. I'm extremely happy with mine. Like many things, due diligence is rewarded. One size doesn't fit all—what fits me may not fit you.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007