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Monday, August 20, 2012

Stepping Over the Medicare Line

Well, I’ve arrived. I’m officially “Mrs. Medicare,” as my son calls me—in retribution for me making a big deal over him turning 40. I’m now eligible for any senior citizen discount out there; and I’m not really sure how I feel about this.

I’m happy that I’m moving from onerous private insurance premiums to lower Medicare payments, but now I have to think about doctors. I have a competent internist, who continues with me into Medicare, but my trusted oncologist retired and my gynecologist doesn’t take Medicare. So I’m doing my homework to see what I need, helped by the advice of a geriatrician (gasp!) I interviewed. As far as health screenings go, my priorities should be a yearly mammogram (as a two-time breast cancer survivor), and an every-five-year colonoscopy (for the same reason.) If pap tests have been normal, she says those can be stopped at 65. Bone density, if low, should be done every couple years or so, but an internist can handle that, colonoscopies and mammograms.

If for some reason, I become a three-timer with the breast cancer, I will shop a couple of opinions for a new oncologist. Otherwise, life actually becomes simpler at this point. All of us seasoned citizens need a yearly vision exam to watch for cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma, and should keep our eyeglass prescription up to date. Dental visits for cleaning and check-ups should be twice a year, because if we have our teeth, we really need to keep them.

The geriatrician had a couple other practical suggestions:

If all my friends and family seem to all be mumbling and have the audacity to ask me to turn the TV volume down a notch or so, I should get my hearing checked. If there’s any appreciable loss, I should get hearing aids. Studies show the earlier we correct our hearing, the better we adapt to the aids and the more we stay in the flow with our surroundings. The newer technology makes them almost invisible, and nothing says aging like repeatedly saying: “Huh?”

But the most important determinant of health, she says, is staying very physically active. Walking errands and our Colorado mountains will help with that! And because I’ve always been a secret gym rat at heart, it’s really neat that my Medicare Advantage plan includes a free fitness center membership!