I know procrastination when I see it. There are times when I am the world’s greatest procrastinator. I don’t need much of an excuse to wait just one more day, and then, just one more day. Then I rush, rush, rush to get it done, often making me and my whole family a nervous wreck. Well, OK, some things can wait a little while. But there are somethings that cannot and will not wait.
Years ago, my wife taught me a very important word. The word is “Prioritize”. Almost everyone is busy and has more things to do than there are hours in the day. We all live in a rush, rush, hurry, hurry world. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes I need to make a priority list of just what needs to be done 1st,2nd, 3rd, etc. It really helps me stay on track.
I want to share with you a few things that I feel should be high on our priority lists.
1. Important dates coming up regarding your health insurance.
I cannot begin to tell you how many people wait until the very last minute, or even later, to prepare for all the changes that will take place when they turn 65. We only have a small window of opportunity to make decisions that will affect us the rest of our lives. Start the process at least three months before turning 65. Apply for your Medicare card with your Part A and Part B coverage.
Begin the process of seeking the best Medicare supplemental insurance that you can afford. Look for guarantees that will last a lifetime. Determine which prescription drug program meets your needs. You will be deluged with mailers from insurance companies, all telling you that they all have the best plans for you. All of them cannot be the best.
Seek out an experienced and qualified agent with references who will walk you through the process and will educate you about Medicare without bullying you into a fast sale to their advantage. Do not sign up by mail. Have a specialist walk you through the process until you understand it completely. Work with someone that will be there in the future, should you have questions.
2. Be realistic about your future health.
Come to grips with the fact that someday we will die. It doesn’t just happen to everyone else. Only in the movies, do we live to a healthy old age of 96 and then quietly die in our sleep with a smile on our face. We may be living longer, but there is a whole new life style out there that many of us either don’t know about or don’t want to know about.
Modern medicine may keep us alive longer, but we must try to plan for the contingencies. Will we spend time in the hospital? Will we need after hospital care at home or in a care facility? Will we need daily outside care? Will we need transportation to see our doctors or for therapy?
We may not know these answers, but we can take an honest look at our current health and know some of the possibilities. We can know if certain illnesses run in our family and look for the signs. We can see our doctor regularly for check-ups. We can take our medications regularly. We can exercise regularly. We can keep a positive mental attitude.
3. We can control some aspects of our future.
If we want some control of our future or even some say in what happens after we die, we need to write it down, sign it, have it witnessed or notarized if necessary, and most importantly, share it with our most trusted friend or relative. Make sure that whoever we choose will have access to the paperwork when we die. Many people do this through a will or trust drawn up by an attorney or someone licensed to legally put in writing exactly what we want to happen when we die.
Right now, today, we can prepare for our care should we go to the hospital. Carry with us our picture ID, such as a driver’s license, our Medicare card, our private insurance card or supplemental insurance card, our prescription drug card, our name, address, phone numbers, our next of kin or who should be contacted in an emergency. List our doctors’ names and phone numbers. Have a list of what medications we’ve been taking and why. Have the dates of any recent medical procedures. It’s amazing how much faster we can be receiving care, once this information is available.
What if you arrive at the hospital and you are unconscious? You need a special form, signed, witnessed, and dated telling them who you want to make decisions that you can’t make on your own. It’s called a Health Care Power of Attorney. It can be changed as needed, but someone with advanced authority must be able to tell the hospital what to do.
What if you go into surgery and lapse into a state of unconsciousness and are unable to tell the doctor which choices you want to have or not have? What if you are terminal? Do you want your life to be prolonged to the greatest extent possible? Do you want to just be kept comfortable? Do you want just pain medication or other medications? Do you want food and fluids administered? Do you want no life sustaining treatment at all? You need a Statutory Short Form Living Will, signed, witnessed, and dated prior to such decisions. You can buy packets of these blank standardized forms at most office-supply stores.
It’s amazing how many times I’ll hear discussions about such things as: Do you want to be cremated? Do you want to have your ashes scattered? Do you want to have your body donated to medical science? Do you want a church service, a memorial service, a grave side service, or just a big party for your friends and relatives? If you don’t tell someone and have it written down, you can’t come back and give instructions.
I’m sorry to use this column for such somber topics, but if we don’t talk about them and do something about them, they probably won’t get done. If we can help, we’re as close as your phone.
Orion Steen is a licensed agent and specializes in Medicare supplemental plans. He has been advising his clients on life and health insurance matters in Arizona for over 45 years. He can be reached for related questions by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call toll-free 888-846-6891 or cell 623-846-6891.