Thursday, April 16, 2015

C'mon, AARP

TBG and I laughed when the AARP spam began arriving in our mailboxes.  We were in our 40's; AARP membership seemed like a cruel joke played on us by rapacious lobbyists, seeking greater numbers and financial backing.

Then, he came closer to turning 65.  He began to examine his insurance options.  He was beyond confused.  I refused to help him; I am younger and didn't want to be bothered.  Yes, my social work background might have prepared me to analyze the situation, but what it mostly prepared me for was being on hold.  Large bureaucracies are not user friendly.  Their policies change mercurially and with no apparent rhyme or reason.  When my turn comes, I'll pay attention.  This time, it was on him.

The information he received gave him a 3 month window.  He applied before his birthday.  His Medicare card came 45 days after his birthday.  Finding a human at the other end of the Medicare Hot Line was a challenge, but it was his challenge. I watched from the couch, and I smiled.  Welcome to my world, sweetie.  He was uninsured for that overlap period.  It was scary.

He needed supplemental plans, as well, and for that we had a stack of advertising materials that was nearly two feet tall.  It accumulated until it began to topple.  It turned into two piles. He finally tackled it, scratched his head, felt overwhelmed, asked Fast Eddie what he'd done when he applied, and ended up in the office of an advisor.

She asked for no money; there must have been a piece of the policy he chose which returned to her. No one would spend her days immersed in these things for free.  She recommended Humana, through AARP.

Yes, we would have to join.  We did.  We didn't get a free backpack or water bottle.  We did get a subscription to a paper magazine, which will create more recycling.  We got large white envelopes with fat books of regulations and caveats and What We Cover and, more important, What We Don't Cover.

There were no forms on perforated sheets at the back of the book.

After a visit to a San Francisco orthopedist who does not contract with insurers, it was on us to file for reimbursement.  The absence of those forms was a problem.

Coincidentally, AARP/Humana called to speak to him.  I answered the phone; she wouldn't talk to me.  I took her number, he called her back, she informed him that there was a website which would answer all his questions.  He asked for my assistance in connecting.

Assuming that it would be simple, since it's designed for a demographic which did not grow up with the technology, I logged on in a ten minute window of opportunity before I had to leave the house.


I chose a username for him.  All sorts of red type appeared.  I read it.  I had the requisite number of letters and numbers, I didn't use any odd characters, I was compliant.  Still, the site would not accept my input.  Swallowing deeply, taking a very big calming breath, I dialed the Help Line.

I listened to two long advertisements in which I had no interest before the Press One for... options began.  I entered the identifying information the robo-voice required, was connected to a representative, repeated that information once again, and was told that I was not an authorized adjunct to TBG's account.

I explained that I didn't want any information.  I just wanted to sign him up... because what I really wanted was a claims form.  It didn't matter.  They will send the required paperwork in 7-10 days.  I'm not holding my breath.

I hung up and tried the website again.  Continued frustration sent me to the tech desk...  I thought.  Turns out I had to go throught he entire commercials, identification, Press One for... rigmarole all over again.  I found Randall, who assured me that he didn't write the code.  I went over what I'd entered, and he suggested that I include a capital letter.

No where in the instructions is capitalization mentioned.

I capitalized all the letters, and failed once again.

Randall said there had to be at least one upper case and one lower case letter in the username.  Again, there was no mention of this on the website.  He had no explanation for that.  He suggested that I use TBG's email address as his username.  I try not to do this, for security purposes, but by this time I was willing to do anything so that I could leave the house and go to the gym.

The email, insecure as it is, went through.  He was signed up on the MyAARPMedicarePlans site.

I opened the site, expecting to find a link to FORMS somewhere near the toolbar at the top of the page.  No such luck.  I opened Get Forms and Resources and found ways to put myself in his personal life, by getting information about his bills and claims, found a form for ETF payments of his monthly bills, but found nothing about submitting a claim.

I went through Plan and Benefits and Forms and Resources and Claims and then I found Order Materials.  At the very end of that last link was a button labeled Claims Envelope.  I clicked it, the site updated, and it told me that the materials would be mailed in 7-10 days.

All I wanted was a form I could print on my computer.  I want to file the claim.  I want to be reimbursed for the out of network doctor visit.  I don't want to identify myself over and over again.  I don't want to wait for snail mail to deliver an envelope.

And then there's that envelope..... will it come with instructions?  Will it include a form?  It says envelope.  I can't get an answer from AARP because I am not authorized.  This isn't a personal question; it's a process issue.  It's the kind of question a social worker would normally ask a provider. It's the kind of question that should have a very simple answer.

Were I a calmer person, I'd continue to deal with this.  Since I am not, I've tossed it back to TBG.  He's willing to wait for the papers to arrive, and I'm happy to have shifted this issue over to his side of the desk. But the aggravation persists.  I imagine Daddoooooo or G'ma dealing with this.  I imagine someone with limited English or competency dealing with this.  I wonder why a website for older adults is so difficult to navigate.

I'm wondering if I should have stuck to my guns and never joined AARP.


  1. As a Web Developer/Designer, I can tell you that if a site is that difficult to use, it has not been tested via focus groups. The biggest part of designing a Web site is to know your end-user. Obviously, AARP doesn't or they don't care. That's a huge loss for them. More people would be part of their organization if they made it easier to join and navigate their Web site. I'm tempted to go look, but your description makes me think it's a hot mess and I know I would be knee-deep in critiquing it and wanting to improve it.

    You should fill out the contact us form though and tell them their site is extremely hard to navigate and use. If they don't hear from people, they will assume everything is alright. As a Web Developer, I can tell you that I like to have feedback. It helps improve a site and something someone else is experiencing is something I may not have anticipated.

    If it gets too complicated, let me know and I will take a look and see if there is an easier way for you and TBG to use the site.

    Sending hugs,

    Megan xxx

    1. Oh, Megan, I love you too much to foist that upon you. We'll wait for the snail mail and see.....
      Would that YOU had had a hand in developing that site <3

  2. An even better way to complain--twitter or Facebook, especially Twitter. I usually get a response before the day is done.

    We've never joined AARP but we have AAA car insurance and they offer some nice "old people" discounts. We also have health insurance through Terry's military retirement as well as my school retirement so I've not seen a need to be encumbered with any other memberships.

    1. G'ma had great supplemental care thru NYSUT, the teachers' union in NY. I had NONE of these problems when I was dealing with her insurance.

      I will tweet my blog post link and see what happens.... will keep you posted.

  3. Joining AARP for the magazine and newsletter is worth it, they're frequently entertaining and often enlightening. But I think that the days of having no problems dealing with insurance are probably long gone! I'm still looking forward to having Medicare in August since whatever supplement or advantage plan I choose will have WAY better coverage than the bronze plan (the only one I can afford) I have through the market place. As *they* say - growing old isn't for sissies!

  4. I will forever be grateful that our former employer provides a supplement plan. I think we're paying more than we should, but there is a convenience factor that is priceless. We did get long term health care insurance through AARP. I'm certain that when the time comes, it will be a nightmare.


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!