Friday, September 12, 2014

sailing in the fog

I have a score to settle.  And, because we are spending a relaxing day at sea, I thought I would exercise my blood pressure a bit.

The reference is appropriate.  It was my blood pressure that began this little morality play. 

You may recall that when I was in Oregon in July -- the Fourth of July to be exact -- my blood pressure decided to do its patriotic impression of bombs bursting in air.  My sister-in-law was worried enough about how high my blood pressure had hovered for two days that she was able to convince me to set aside all of my misgivings about the American medical system.  Well, she was able to set them aside enough to get me to the emergency room of the hospital where she works.

My biggest concern in the northern system is dealing with the billing side of an expensive trip to the emergency room.  If I incur medical expenses in The States, the bills are first submitted to Medicare.  If there is any amount still owing, Medicare passes along the bill to Tricare -- the company that administers my Air Force retirement benefits. 

The July visit was my initiation to this dual system.  But I have dealt with Tricare in Mexico enough to know that there is always something for me to pay.  Deductibles.  Co-pays.  Fees for looking out the window twice.  

Those bills go to my Nevada address.  The chance of bills sitting unpaid for long periods is high -- and I do not like owing money.  Especially, owing money to medical providers who have no qualms about running a scalpel across the carotid artery of a patient’s credit history.

I tried to pay the intake clerk in cash when I was admitted, but she looked at me as if I had offered her a truckload of crated chickens.  Apparently, paying cash to hospitals is no longer an accepted custom in, as Jennifer Rose likes to call it, the Old Country.

When I returned to Mexico, I looked at some of the mail that had accumulated over the past few months in Nevada.  Deep in the pile was my Medicare card and instructions on how to view my Medicare claims online.  I knew that my friend the internet would not let me down.

But it did.  When I tried to sign on to “My Medicare,” my computer repeatedly informed me that I had a hole in my head if I thought I was ever going to get a connection with the web page.  (The message was a little more technical than that.  But you get the drift.)

So, I went in search of a way to contact Medicare to see if there was a problem with the site.  And I found it -- a customer service page where I could pose my question to the Powers That Control My Credit Rating.

My question was simple: “For the past two weeks, I have tried to access the ‘My Medicare’ site to no avail.  Is there some systemic issue?”

A canned response showed up in my in-box within minutes informing me my question had been received and I would receive a response within three business days.

Three business days went by.  Then a week.  Then two weeks.  I had almost forgotten about my question when on week three, I received this very helpful response.  (Please remember my question was very specific about having trouble getting on the My Medicare site.)

For information pertaining to Medicare beneficiaries, information about health plans, or instructions for ordering Medicare booklets, please call Medicare's 24-hour helpline toll-free at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.
Information for Medicare beneficiaries can also be found on the website at

You can also visit view's Frequently Asked Questions or submit a question to the staff by visiting:

Use this link to add notes to the case: [link deleted]
I guess I can stop being morally enraged about the IRS destroying all of the email dealing with its abuse of authority in the Freedom Party audits.  Medicare has a far better device for deflecting assistance.

When I was in private practice, I had a couple of clients in rest homes who depended on Medicare to pay their medical bills.  Each month I would visit them and sift through their respective piles of paperwork.  It took me only about two months to figure out there was no logical way to determine what had been paid and what had not been paid.

That experience soured me on Medicare long before I fell into its trough this year.

Maybe everything will work out fine.  Mexico has taught me if I wait long enough, life will cycle itself into a happy ending.

So, I am going to enjoy this day at sea and leave the medical madness to others.  By the time I get back to Mexico, Medicare may even figure out how to keep me updated on my own account.

Of course, I also believe unicorns are ridden by tax-cutting politicians.

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