|This KHN story also ran in . It can be republished for free. (details)|
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Wait! I thought I was calling Social Security to ask a question about enrolling in Medicare.
It's the first hour of my mission to sign up for Medicare and already I'm making mistakes. In this case, it's minor (and amusing), misdialing the toll-free number by one digit. But it serves as a warning: There are many missteps I can make, some of them serious, if I'm not careful.
Even for me, a consumer reporter who has written about health-insurance issues, enrolling in Medicare is a daunting task. The terminology is confusing and the options are seemingly infinite, based on the amount of promotional material that's begun arriving in my mailbox. The letters from various insurance carriers began appearing exactly six months before my 65th birthday and after three months they weighed 1.5 pounds. More packets arrive daily. Medicare experts tell me I can thank the data brokers for the onslaught: Names and birth dates are for sale to anyone.
Enrolling is a task I'd like to put off, but I can't. I no longer have job-based insurance, and my current health insurer has notified me that my policy will soon expire, on the first of the month in which I turn 65.
I know that the decisions I make may differ from those made by friends, relatives and even my...