Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Planned Seniorhood

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We retired early and took our Social Security at 62. We have been on the road full-time for four years. This year we both have to decide how to take Medicare. It is driving my husband crazy. He says it is more complicated than a corn maze. He has been online studying and stewing about it for two months now and still hasn’t come to a decision. Time is running out to make that decision and I can’t seem to get him to pull the trigger on one plan or another. Should I lock him in the trailer and refuse to let him out until he decides, or is that too harsh? He doesn’t appreciate my input because I haven’t studied it at all and have no idea how to proceed. I look to him to make this decision and I don’t know how to get him to jump.
--Medinuts in Medford

Dear Medinuts:
The way insurance works is simple. Most companies have a very uncomplicated business plan--Confuse and Conquer. Medicare works the same way. Instead of having basic coverage that just kicks in when you reach 65, they have multiple choice plans, with multiple choice plans within the plans. I can see how your husband is totally confused. The problem is, he has to make his choices.

Everyone has a different set of circumstances, so it takes a bit of homework to figure out which combination of options work best for you. It sounds like he has done his due diligence. Here is how I decided. This may not be your solution, but it may give you some guidance as to how to attack the problem. I found a copy of the Medicare guide book and read it a couple times. Then I called a local Medicare facility and asked questions on things I found totally confusing. Once things started to focus more, it was not all that confusing for me.

I am highly suspect of insurance companies. So when my mailbox started filling up with bazillions of offers to buy into a Medicare Advantage Plan I personally became suspicious. When I called about Medigap Plans I was always being routed to the Advantage cubical of sales people. This was another red flag for me. As a full-timer, I decided I did not want a network plan. With Original Medicare I can go anywhere I want that accepts it. I also found that with an Advantage Plan I would have to go see doctors A and B before I could see doctor C. If I want to go to doctor C, I would rather go direct. If you want to go with an Advantage Plan, pick one and get it over with, but read the fine print.

If you don't want to go with an Advantage Plan, and you stick with Original Medicare, here is a starting point for your husband. You get Medicare A, and Medicare B will come out of your Social Security. Easy so far, right? Now you hit Medicare Plan C. It has a whole alphabet full of sub-plans. You will notice that Plan F is the most expensive because it covers 100% of deductibles and co-pays. What many people miss is that Plan F has a high deductible option (HD). It is a very reasonable premium and tops your cost out at just over $2,100. Out of all the alphabet soup deals I studied, this looked like the best deal for the least dollars.

Then we get to Plan D, which stands for DRUGS. By this time you need drugs just to focus and make a decision. If you are in need of regular drugs, you are going to deal with the donut hole for several more years. It won’t matter if you are in an Advantage Plan or Original. Most communities have a Senior Help Center that will sit down with you and give you a step-by-step walk-through plan options. Another thought for Veterans is the VA can be part or all of your plan, if you so choose.

I wouldn’t lock your husband in the trailer unless you are in there with him. This decision will affect you as much as him. You should be studying this labyrinth of lunacy as hard as he is. Together you can help each other make the best decision that will cover your personal situations.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Shut out of government campgrounds

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I should probably be writing to my Congressman instead of you, but I’ve decided to write to both. My wife and I have waited for years to be able to travel during the fall when campgrounds in popular areas are less crowded. Now I am discovering that the government camping sites like National Forest and National Park campgrounds are closing in mid-September to early October. Often we can’t get into a park campground because they have only left one loop open. It might as well be the 4th of July, everyone is fighting for a site in a single loop. The weather in areas I am referring to is often mild until late October. I can see the need to cut back on the activities offered during prime time but how hard is it to leave a gate open. I don’t care if they shut the water off, close the bathroom, board up the visitor center, and send the seasonal rangers home. Just leave the campground open so I can find a place to park near the places I love to hike. Am I missing something, asking too much, being unreasonable?
—Fall Guy in Freeport

Dear Fall Guy:
It is probably not a bad idea to write your Congressman. Whatever side of the fence your representative resides on, I am almost sure a vote to increase the Park Service budget is not on the top of the priority list. In their defense I have to say I have noticed the park service monitoring usage and reopening loops, especially on weekends, into the late fall. There is definitely a shift in shoulder season crowds. As more and more seniors retire, shoulder season usage will continue to rise. Many families take advantage of fall weekends to get out and enjoy these same areas. I believe the Park and Forest Service see these same subtle changes and are trying to deal with them and still maintain a balanced budget.

I can think of a lot of things the government could cut to pay for better maintained parks, but don’t get me started. Everyone has their own pet projects and needs. I am just grateful so much public land has been set aside in this spectacular country of ours. You may get a clearer picture of what is happening in the park or parks you are referring to by talking to management there. I would start with an explanation from them before I wrote someone in Washington with six aides pumping out form letters. Other than that, use prime season tactics like showing up early or making reservations where you can.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

RV camp scout

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know this sounds like small potatoes, but it is just something that bugs me to death. My wife likes to explore campgrounds we stay in before she finally picks a site. Our typical mode of operation is to drop the toad, she goes in to pick a site, then calls or comes back to get me. The problem is, sometimes she’s gone a month. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But it does seem like she is gone a long time. I would rather just drive in and look around, pick a site and be done with it. She needs the door facing a certain direction, the motorhome facing a certain direction, the right sun/shade combination, the right distance from lighting, bathroom and noisy trash containers. Should I be thankful or annoyed. At this time I am mostly annoyed. --Waiting for patience in Pocatello

Dear Pocat:
Sometimes finding utopia takes a few minutes. Part of your problem is you are not keeping your mind busy. While she is gone, do something else. Don’t sit in the driver’s seat impatiently waiting for her to come back. It will only turn minutes into hours. Many people would give their left lug nut to have an onboard camping planner. It also allows her to see if there are any obstacles that might cause your mothership to have any difficulties maneuvering. I can see her point about the trash containers. Especially the bear-proof containers that sound like a car crash every time someone drops the lid.

One thing you may suggest is keeping a log of her favorite sites. In the future you may return and in many cases you can reserve the sites you found the most suitable in the past. Many online reservation systems will show a photo of the site, give you a sun/shade rating, length suggestion and more. These can be helpful before you arrive, even as a walk-in, without a reservation. So relax, go with the flow, clean your windshield while she is gone. It’s just a perception of time you need to manage. In the end you probably get the best site available in every campground where you stay.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

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