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Well. It's one of the government's little jokes that just whenyour faculties get a little wobbly and you've killed off a goodpercentage of brain cells, they throw this complicated Medicarebusiness at us. Because, like supermarket chickens, Medicare has"Parts."

To help you navigate through all the Parts, you're mailed a"handbook" consisting of approximately 24,768 pages, although it isconsiderately printed in Very Large Type for us folks who are, youknow, getting on in years and don't see quite as well as we usedto.

Like any responsible person, immediately upon the handbook'sarrival I found an obscure drawer and stuffed it inside. Way in theback. Pushed it further toward the back whenever I opened thedrawer. That's because when I got the handbook I made the suprememistake of peeking inside and was accosted by the "PreventiveServices Checklist," which contains a number of awesomely-namedenterprises such as "Fecal Occult Blood Test." Huh? I don't evenWANT to know what THAT is except this procedure is possiblyexplained via those new "Twilight" movies that are all the rageright now.

Regardless, I didn't visualize that particular venture being afun way to spend an afternoon; hence the handbook in the back ofthe drawer.

Then one day a large, ominous envelope arrived from my insurancecompany saying they were no longer going to be withdrawing thatbucketload of premium money each month from the checking account.What? They were cutting me off? Hmm ... time to revisit thatMedicare handbook.

That's when I learned about the Parts. Part A and Part B andwhether I should get Part B and what's covered and not covered andoh, by the way, how about Part C - the OTHER plan, which says"Advantage" (wink, wink) in it a LOT, and moving on we have Part Das in DRUGS! Please note there is only one letter of differencebetween "MediCARE" and "MediCATE," folks. All these Medicare PartsA, B, C, D for the love of God! It's our government at itswhimsical best.

Let me just say deciphering the entire Tax Code would be easierthan navigating through this mess. Then I unearthed the ambiguousterm "Medigap." Note again there is only one letter of differencebetween "MediGAP" and "MediGAG" - another governmental inside joke."MediGAP" means you'll want to entertain the prospect of a"supplemental" insurance policy to fill in the monetary "gaps"(hahaha).

If by now you're not already on the verge of an anxiety-inducedbreakdown, you discover there is "Open Enrollment" and a "LateEnrollment PENALTY" just in case you might have, oh, you know,stuffed your Medicare handbook in the back of a drawer since youare SO far away from that big Six-Five birthday.

Alas, reality caught up with me by mail in the form of a snappylittle red, white and blue Medicare card. Next came anofficial-looking "certificate" from my insurance company, sort of a"bye-bye-it's-been-nice-covering-you-for-the-last-40-years-and-by-the-way-we're-sending-the-whole-office-to-Europe-on-those-bucketloads-of-monthly-premiums-you-sent-us-over-the-decades."

Finally, and I am every bit as shocked as you are, I foundmyself calling the folks who've been trying to get their hooks inme ever since I turned 50: AARP. Waiting to discuss supplementalinsurance plans. On eternal "hold," listening to music from the'40s. And it hit me. WHAT am I doing? I'm a Baby Boomer for cryingout loud! I was cool, I was hip, I once owned go-go boots! Thisisn't happening!!! I have as much business joining AARP as I haveentering the Miss America pageant!

That's when I decided none of it was real. Tomorrow I'd wake upand be 20 again. Or 30. Or some other number. Any number that (oh,please!) has NOTHING to do with Medicare.

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