You do know that Medicare is not free, don’t you? Every Medicare recipient pays $148.50 per month that is either taken directly from their monthly Social Security checks (Seniors beware, it goes to $170.10 per month in 2022!) or has recipients pay that amount quarterly by check.
Seniors then can choose a Supplemental Plan which costs on average $200 more per month; it allows them to choose any doctor, specialist, or hospital they want.
Then there is an Advantage Plan that we have chosen where we pay $0 more per month. We do have to stay in network for our doctors, specialists, and hospitals. That is indeed little sacrifice for us living in southern Maine where our network is extensive with convenient health care and in Boston, if necessary.
Our United Healthcare Advantage Plan also gives us incentives to stay healthy. Besides not charging for the following services, they pay us $15 to get an annual physical, $5 for a flu shot, $10 per month if we accumulate at least 7500 steps in ten days per month. Hannah is paid $25 for osteoporosis bone density test.
In addition, United Healthcare will give us a $50 Visa gift card annually if we have a 45-minute Health Call by a nurse practitioner, either in person or online. Just ten days ago, Hannah and I had a virtual house call, primarily to get the $50 gift card since we get annual physicals from our primary care physicians, well, annually.
For today’s video House Call, Viji, the delightful nurse practitioner, asks us lifestyle and health related questions such as about our medications, hospitalizations, vaccinations, hearing, sleep, peeing, and alcohol and tobacco use.
Then she asks me to remember three unrelated items – pineapple, playground, and red. She says she’ll ask me to repeat these later. Throughout the next ten minutes as she asks me other questions, I am constantly repeating these three items to myself . I know this game because I have been down that road before.
You see, in 2002, I got real fuzzy when teaching an afternoon class at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic. As class began, I couldn’t see the names in the class roster clearly; I had trouble speaking and couldn’t remember my students’ names at all. Eventually, I was taken to the local Windham Hospital by the Department Chair, David Stoloff, to see what the hell was going on.
There I had a Cat Scan and an MRI. Neither test revealed the reason for my loss of memory nor my inability to speak and read. Unable to figure out what was wrong with me, the doctors sent me off to the Big Dogs at the Hartford Hospital in the state capital. In the ambulance on the 60-minute ride, things started to clear; I could form words and follow what the EMT was saying.
Once at the Hartford Hospital it was apparent after two hours of observation that I was okay. But they wouldn’t let me leave until I could repeat three unrelated words ten minutes later. Probably because I was fine, I knew what was going on and repeated the words to myself and passed the test on my first attempt.
And so, too, this afternoon, I repeat pineapple, playground, and red to ViJi on the video call.
And then she has one more little test for me. She asks me to draw a clock and put the time at 235P (which happened to be the time of this Wednesday afternoon House Call.) I draw the circle, put in all twelve numbers as well a both the short and long hands. Once I show it to her, she mentions Alzheimer’s patients have difficulty doing this.
Phew! Good for another year!
In three weeks time for participating in this 45-minute House Call, my Medicare provider, United Healthcare, will send me a $50 Visa Gift Card which will pay for 2/3 of my new Merrell Moab hiking shoes.
In 2002, the incident in Connecticut that I described above was tentatively diagnosed as Transient Global Amnesia.
Fifteen years later, it happened again. I couldn’t speak, read, and remember shit. My symptoms lasted for three hours and then I was fine. Since June of 2017 it hasn’t happened again.
If you wonder about Transient Global Amnesia, I wrote a series of blogs to describe what happened to me and the testing and care I received in 2017.