The Med Diva

An insider's guide to Medicare Part D and more

Dear Medicare, We’re not Dead Yet


In Monty Python’s Spamalot, there is a scene with Robin and Lance and a supposed dead man who suddenly rises from a cart singing, “I am not dead yet; No need to go to bed; No need to call the doctor; Cause I’m not yet dead.”

Arnold Ross of New York also sang this song—although not to an audience, but to Medicare. Unfortunately, the people at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services apparently had their ears plugged.

According to this report I came across on Eyewitness News, ever since Arnold’s wife passed away in July, Medicare has declared Arnold dead. “They said I’m deceased. I was dead in their computers,” he tells the reporter. “Look at me, do I look dead?” he said.

Weeks after his wife’s death, Medicare sent Arnold a condolence letter for his own death. Medicare also stopped paying his doctor bills. Arnold says he made many calls to Medicare, but nothing was ever resolved. Eyewitness News made one call and the problem was resolved in a few hours.

Medicare said the initial confusion happened because Arnold and his wife’s Medicare numbers were very similar (in other words, a computer error). They apologized to him for the problem, but couldn’t explain why it took so long to pay attention to his pleas and get it fixed.

A few years back I ran into a similar problem with Medicare — they had accidentally attempted to enroll people into a Medicare Part D plan even though these people had passed away. (Imagine getting a letter thanking your late spouse for joining a Medicare plan.) I had to write a letter to their loved ones expressing condolences for this error.

Unfortunately, because Medicare relies on enormous computer systems to operate, mistakes do happen often. But there was no excuse for the real people at Medicare to ignore Arnold’s calls when their computer system made an error. Talk about Medicare fraud, waste, and ABUSE. If I were in charge, a lot of people would be fired right now for their incompetence.

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