Happy Medicare Birthday to Me!

Yep. Today is my birthday, but not just any birthday. I’m 65 years old. And while it’s tempting to wax philosophical about how in the world six-and-a-half decades could have flown by so quickly, I won’t.

Instead, I’ll wax philosophical about how complicated it is to understand Medicare. There’s Part A, which is “free.” Part B, which isn’t. In 2020, they’ll take $144 out of your social security check every month to pay for it, unless your income from the previous year was higher than a certain amount, in which case they’ll take out more. Sometimes a lot more. Then there’s Part D, prescription drug plan, which you’re required to buy even if you don’t take any medicine. And to be on the safe side, you’ll probably want dental insurance and almost definitely either Medicare Advantage or a Medigap policy.

If you’re my age or older, you already know all this. If you’re not, hold onto your hats. Sixty-five sneaks up on you while you’re pretending you’re still young.

Instead of Medicare, I’d rather write about presents. They’re frequently an issue when your birthday falls within a few days of Christmas. My parents were always hyper-conscious of this, in a good way. My mother took down the tree and put all the Christmas decorations away before December 29 rolled around. My gifts were wrapped in birthday paper, with no hint of red or green. Every now and then, I received a “combined” Christmas-birthday present, but only when I asked for something big. A set of matching luggage, which included a “train case.” A bicycle with gears and handbrakes. Or–best of all—a portable electric typewriter, which I received when I was a junior in high school.

Now that I’m old and trying to live an “unstuffed” life, I don’t want presents. I’d rather money go toward coats for people who are cold or food for hungry people or toys for children who don’t have any.

If anyone—my kids, for instance–wants to acknowledge my birthday, I ask them to do tasks I can’t (or don’t want to) do for myself, like saw dead limbs off the trees in my yard. Teach me how to put cell phone photos into folders. Replace the toner cartridge in my computer printer. But in spite of my “no more stuff” leanings, I’ll admit it’s wonderful when someone gives me an unexpected gift that comes from the heart. This has happened several times this month. Each time it did, I thought, “Wow. I love this present SO much.” A few examples:

  • Debra, who was doing a serious clean-out of her basement, asked if I wanted her old ping-pong table. “We’re never going to use it again,” she said. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
  • Susan, who knew that colorful woven potholders play a role in my still-in-progress novel, put a couple of them in a gift bag and slipped it under my tree. She didn’t add a note saying who they were from, but I knew right away it had to be her.
  • Marilyn, who read my Santa face column a couple of weeks ago, gifted me with a very special one from her collection. It’s a genuine Holt-Howard miniature mug. I know it’s “real” because of the red-and-gold foil “H-H Japan” sticker affixed to the bottom. Wowie zowie.

Circling back to Medicare, I’d be remiss in not thanking those who helped me wade through the long, complicated process. Shelly for her patience and insurance expertise. Lisa for her income tax knowledge. And Roy, who told me not to panic.

Here’s hoping all of you readers had a very Merry Christmas. And that we’ll be able to welcome the New Year with 20/20 vision.

(December 29, 2019)