Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Retirement Planning—FDA To Issue Medicare Warnings

You may have heard that the FDA recently unveiled proposed graphic warning labels for cigarette packs. The messages state that cigarettes cause strokes and heart disease, are addictive and cause fatal lung disease. The last message accompanies a photo of a dead body with a toe tag. Another comes with a photo of a corpse in a coffin.

I’ve just learned that the FDA is about to release another group of graphic warning labels—to accompany the Medicare insurance packets that we receive as we approach age 65. If you’re squeamish, you may want to skip this post.

The first label reads: “Warning! Filling out Medicare paperwork may cause you to have a nervous breakdown, requiring you to be restrained.” A photo of a demented-looking man in an old-fashioned straight jacket accompanies the text. He appears to be in a padded room.

Another cautions: “Sorting through Medicare mailings may leave you clawing the walls and furniture.” The photo shows a woman kneeling, with arched back, shredding the arm of an overstuffed sofa. She reminds me of my cat sharpening her claws on the scratching post.

“Take precautions! Initial review of Medicare material has been known to cause the reader to break out in a cold sweat.” The man in the photo sits shivering in a Snuggie blanket. Papers are scattered all around him but he appears incapable of moving from his cocoon.

 “Reviewing your Medicare paperwork may make your hair stand on end. If you are doing this in the winter, beware of static electricity shocks.” The man in the photo clearly did not beware; even the hair on his forearms is at attention. Is that smoke coming out of his ears?

Here’s a good one: “Do not be alarmed by the drool that escapes the sides of your mouth as you prepare your Medicare application. This is a common occurrence.” Maybe so, but the mad-cowlike expression in the companion photo gives me pause. In my extensive experience, no good ever comes from a situation that leaves you slobbering.

My favorite reads: “Danger! Careful reading of Medicare documents may cause you to go berserk and strangle anyone within reach.” This photo is like a caricature of woman in the throes of severe PMS. The unwitting victim is no doubt her spouse, who probably asked when dinner would be ready. If only he had read the warning label.

The last one hits close to home. “Contraindications for Medicare paperwork: Can cause your blood pressure to rise, requiring extra medication and extra paperwork, setting you on a vicious cycle from which you will never recover. Remember Charlie on the MTA?” This is the only photo in color. It’s me, with cheeks so red I look like I’ve just downed a bottle of Chianti.

You have to hand it to the FDA. They really know how to do warning labels. Here’s one for them. “Warning! Creating paperwork that frustrates seniors can be dangerous. Be careful opening mail from strangers.” The photo shows me again. I’m packing up half empty sardine cans, fur balls and other nasty looking stuff. That’s going to be ripe by the time it’s delivered. The mailing label reads: Medicare Administration Offices.
Score one for us retirees.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! I think the warnings are definitely warranted, having just attempted to fill out my Medicare papers. Someone from SSA left me a message to call, so I probably messed up somewhere. This is a situation in which an Ivy League education is of no use. :)

Elaine M. Decker said...

I'm learning that there are a lot of situations in which an Ivy League education is of no use!

Good luck with the SSA.

Ann S.S.N. said...

The advantage of an older husband who has survived, both physically and financially, all manner of gory medical procedures since he retired (including open heart surgery) IS, since I am on his plan, that I know exactly what coverage will be like. So, I may be deaf and blind but the rest seems to be taken care of. Into the round file with all those threatening alternatives!

Irene said...

Wonderful, Elaine. This alone should keep me working at a place where I still get health benefits, so I don't have to fill out this dreaded paperwork.
Happy Thanksgiving. ARe you coming in for the Broker Brunch at Dede's on the 4th? Need a place to stay?

Elaine M. Decker said...

Yes, I'll be there. Thanks for offer, but staying with my nephew and his family in CT.

Elaine M. Decker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.