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Of the Advantages of Being 65

As I’m 65 now, I qualify – on application – for state-run health insurance! I found out only recently, and only by chance, in a newsletter from “The American Dream“, that organisation in Berlin that had helped me with my visitor’s visa and through whom I – unsuccessfully alas – participated for years in the Green Card lottery, that I possibly qualify for Medicare, that financial aid in health care costs for “The Old” – not that I consider myself “old”, but legally I am what in more favourable terms [or what some would term Orwellian Newspeak] is called a “Senior Citizen“. Anyway: I found out that, having turned 65 on April 5 of this year and being here as a permanent resident, married to an American citizen who has paid into Social Security and is thus entitled to the resulting benefits in her own right, I myself am really entitled to Medicare through her. Well, as I’m not entitled to Medicare in my own right [for that I would have to have been here for 5 years at least as a permanent resident or would have to be an American citizen], I have to pay $99/month.

Not that I really need Medicare as I’m very well insured by the State of Northrhine-Westphalia [for retired civil servants they pay 70% of all medical bills] and by DeBeKa, my private health insurance [they pay the remaining 30%] and they pay even if I live abroad permanently, but I feel (financially) safer now as they pay only according to German standards, which, as far as hospital care and ambulances are concerned, is considerably less than the costs here in the US.  Hospital care here, as I know from years ago, when Mary had arthroscopic ankle-surgery and that was $19,000, even with her being an outpatient, can be what a German would consider “astronomical”. With costs like these I would be refunded a very small portion only by me German health insurance. For ambulance costs outside of Germany, btw, the state doesn’t pay at all, and, considering the fact that they are quite often done by helicopter hereabouts, they can be quite substantial, too. The (financial) security that these costs are being taken care of is – to my mind – well worth the $99/month. Meanwhile I have got my Medicare card and I have also paid my first instalment.

What I have to find out now is if I can opt out of Medicare B, which is the part that I have to pay for and which covers doctor’s bills and ambulance. Doctor’s bills are not really a financial liability as they aren’t that high that I won’t be refunded in total, or could easily make up the difference, and for ambulance I can get an insurance here [for southern Texas], that would cover both Mary and me for just $38/year. I would then just keep Medicare A, which covers hospital costs and is free. But with that coverage I really feel better as those costs could be financially ruinous. Differently from Germany, there’s no such thing as a medical fee schedule here, where usually the insurance companies contract with doctors and hospitals and negotiate their fees and usually cut them down tremendously. Just an example: some time ago our good friend Mike had lap-band surgery [as an outpatient, btw]. Had he paid himself, the costs would have been a staggering $99,000 [no mistake!]. As it was, they got just over $9,000 from his health insurance. And there was no co-payment by himself. I really don’t understand that system, but that’s how it works. They simply milk the uninsured. And that is why I’m so glad I’m on Medicare now, because, as I have my health insurance in Germany and for here have to be a “self pay”, I would have had to pay the $99,000 without any hope of being refunded more than a small fraction of that sum.

Addendum: the whole business of applying for Medicare and getting thinsg done was amazingly fast – less than three weeks after applying I had my Medicare card. That’s a blatant contrast to the procedure of extending my Green Card, which has been in the works for more than 6 months by now and of which there’s no end in sight yet.  Just a while ago I checked again on the USCIS website and it said that the average processing time with the Vermont Center [the office I have to go through] is now 8.1 months. When I sent in my application, it was 7.2. So, what’s it going to be??!!

Um diesen Eintrag in Deutsch zu lesen, hier klicken.

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