Just an old guy ranting

I write for my amusement and the hell of it, but I'm not self-deluded enough to think you ought to read it all. Some of it, maybe, on days when five out of six cylinders are firing, but that's once or twice a month at best. 

Today I've got maybe two cylinders loosely connected, and what follows is only an old guy ranting.

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Having reached the age of 65, I'm qualified for Washington's Medicaid coverage, and a reduced senior citizen bus fare. Being a cheap bastard, I've filed for both, but they don't make it easy. There are the hurdles you gotta jump over without a walker.

First, the bus pass. 

Let me start by saying (again) that public transit should be free for everyone, same as the sidewalks, the fire department, and the public library. Republicans don't want government to do anything for people who aren't rich, and Democrats are always agreeable, so the bus fare here is a preposterous $2.75 per ride, or $1 if you're old. I don't want to pay even the dollar, but it beats $2.75. 

Being a bus rider all my life, I've always bought my monthly pass in advance, so I tried buying a "senior pass" a week before my 65th birthday. This was not only not possible, it got me scolded, as if I'd been trying to swindle the transit agency. They require a copy of your birth certificate, and will not sell you a senior pass — even one that's not effective for a week — when you're only 64 + 11 months, three weeks, and three days old.

So to celebrate my 65th birthday, I set the alarm early and clicked onto the Metro Transit website at 5AM to begin the process. It baffled me. There seemed to be no way to purchase fare on my plastic bus-and-train card, except at full-fare. There were no instructions, no real answers in the FAQ, and nobody on the help-line so early in the morning, so I gave up, and paid full-fare to ride the bus that day.

Paid full-fare the next day too, and bought a full-fare bus-and-train pass for the month, as I sensed the size and scope of the obstacles to getting a senior pass.

Of course, I'd emailed the transit agency, and they responded three days later, but their answer was only to quote a portion of the perplexing text from their website.

After two more emails and two phone calls with half an hour on hold, I sorta understood — they won't let you load senior fares onto a standard bus-and-train card. Instead they send old people a new and different plastic card, which is available only by mail. "Allow 7-10 days for delivery," but you can't order it even the day before you're 65.

The process is so byzantine that I hadn't even asked the right question — "Please send a senior discount card" — until my fifth day of being 65.

Getting the card in the mail took eleven days, not ten, so when I returned home from another full-fare day at the office on the 16th of June, I marveled to hold in my hands a no-value senior pass.

Once I'd returned to the website and paid to load a monthly pass onto the new card, I was good to go — but not until July.

I'd like my money back please, for the month of full-fare riding they forced me to buy despite being 65, and (you're damned right) I asked for that refund. 

Metro Transit, though, has stopped answering my emails for some reason.

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And then there's Medicaid. 

Let me start by saying (again) that health care should be free for everyone. Instead it's tremendously expensive, nothing but big profits for big business. Republicans love that, of course, and Democrats are always agreeable, so health care is America's leading cause of personal bankruptcy.

Being officially old, though, I can finally escape that cost and hassle and all the worries, right? Just fill out this skyscraper stack of forms.

Actually, I'd filled out the forms and gotten a Medicaid card in the mail late last year, when I was a young whippersnapper just 64 years of age. It's more complicated when you're young like that — you have to prove you're poor, and indeed I'd been poor enough to qualify, but I've never even used the coverage.

And yet, since mid-May they've been peppering me with a ceaseless barrage of text messages, emails, and letters in the box telling me I'll lose my Medicaid if I don't re-enroll by the end of the month.

Nothing's changed about me since late 2022 except that I've lost a little weight, briefly been employed, and then turned 65. Why do I have to re-enroll? Am I gonna gotta re-enroll every year for the rest of my life, with the recurring threat that they'll cut me off if ever I miss a deadline?

It's all bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake. I growled and hated it, but re-applied.

Filling out the form on-line should've taken maybe half an hour, but it's the hinkyest website ever, and it took two damned hours.

First, the site wanted me to log in, using the credentials I'd set when I applied for Medicaid last year. Despite being correct, my username and password no longer work, and the option to "reset your password" loops back to the same page, asking again and again if you want to reset your password. 

There's an option for filling out the form without logging in, so that's what I did, and I got half a dozen questions into the very long questionnaire before the website's software stopped working.

Since I wasn't logged in, the site hadn't stored my answers, and I got to start all over again, with the first questions. Name. Date of Birth. SS#. Address. Phone. Email address...

The kookiest of the questions was, "Are you a resident of the state of Washington?" followed two questions later by, "Are you a resident of some state other than Washington?"

After ten or twelve questions the website froze up again, and then again, and after the third time starting over, I suspected my browser might be the problem. I use Firefox, and occasionally there are websites that make me use Chrome instead, but the Medicaid website crapped out over and over on Chrome, too.

Here's my hot insider tip: They don't say it, but you have to use Microsoft Edge.

Edge is an abomination against the 21st century, but it's on Windows and cannot be removed, so I have it... and after being kicked out of the questionnaire and starting over half a dozen times on Firefox and Chrome, I what-the-hell'd and tried it in Edge. And it worked, with no further tech issues.

Hooray, I guess. Can I have my morning back?

The application itself is about 80% inapplicable, with questions like
        • What's your income?
        • List your assets
        • What's your rent?
        • Who's your employer?...

I am 65, ya numskulls, and that means I get Medicaid regardless of the answers to those questions.

Where it asked my employer, it showed a very small logo for the United States Postal Service. My last contact with Medicaid was in December 2022, and then a few months later I briefly worked for USPS, so how does Medicaid know that I worked for the Post Office?

I don't even want to think about the answer to that; it'll piss me off even more.

When I'd finished the form, and wondrously the website didn't glitch out a seventh time, it said, "If you applied for food assistance, cash, or medical programs, please call between 8AM and 3PM, Monday to Friday, to complete an interview."

So there's even more rigmarole to go through?

At 8:10 on a weekday, I called the number it told me to call, and the recording said the office opens at 9:00.

Being a bottom at heart, a sap for punishment, I stayed on the line and listened to the entire recording, and after a chapter of information someone might want to know but I sure didn't, it mentioned in passing that, "If you've applied for medical benefits, the process is underway and there is no further interview."

So, the rigmarole ends (I hope) by telling me to call when I don't have to call, just to waste another five minutes.

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This is a wildly radical statement, but if you're entitled to something, it ought to be easy to get. It shouldn't take most of a morning to fill out the forms.

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The next morning, more rigmarole: A strange, encrypted email came from DSHS, the state agency that administers Medicaid:

"Congratulations, you are now ready to submit your documents! You can now send verification documents by replying to this message."

Four paragraphs follow, explaining how to attach the verification documents, which are four times called verification documents without even once explaining what the documents might be.

If they want my birth certificate and driver's license, I'll send 'em, but first they'll need to say "send your birth certificate and driver's license." If they want anything more than complicated than that, I might get grumpy.

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And you know what else? I don't even know whether Medicaid works, whether it's worth all this bother.

When I need to see a doctor, can I flash my Medicaid card, and make an appointment, with no worries about paperwork and cost? That would be great — so it's very, very doubtful. (See: Republicans, and Democrats.)

I'll bet it works like private insurance — you make an appointment with a doctor, if the doctor is willing to take Medicaid patients. The clinic sends an outrageous bill, and you fill out forms for everything and submit it to Medicaid. Months later, Medicaid maybe pays some portion of the bill and maybe doesn't, and you're stuck paying the difference.

There'll be a billion nitpicky rules about what's covered and what's not, and the rules will be an amazing maze that leads reliably to me writing another check.

If that's how it works, I probably won't even file claims for routine doctor visits and prescriptions and such. Too much hassle.

So I won't cost Medicaid a nickel until I need something major like a hip replacement, and then they'll tell me I'm disqualified because I'd filed no claims in the past 14 months, as clearly explained in Rule 242-C, subsection F-U.

That's what I'm expecting, but tell me I'm wrong, please. I'd love to be wrong. It would be sweet as maple syrup if the so-called safety net doesn't have holes intentionally snipped exactly where you can most easily fall through.



  1. Nice new top-of-page: clean with muted colors, doesn't try to explain the site in a short paragraph which is impossible -- just six words and a comma which are both explanatory and evocative. Feels to me like a lot of work went into it, but to the casual visitor it looks like you just banged it off.

    I love commas as you might know, and I'm sure you know that the one at the top is a Rule 13 comma, which some people abhor. "To add clarity", though, seems like a noble cause of action.

    Good job.


    1. Took about half an hour, I'd guess, from the moment I noticed that the old masthead was too busy, to cut-and-paste and uploading the new one.

      Glad you like it, though. Graphic design is one of my many weak suits. Pure polyester.

  2. What a medicare slog for you, I don't know if it's different in the city but in my rural area I go in to see my friendly health insurance lady, wait a few minutes, and she does the computer legwork and signs me up for medicare. *After my hip replacement i was sorta surprised to have to pay nothing, pretty nice for the old timers, i guess we deserve it or something...Eel

    1. I'm intrigued. You're already buying insurance through that lady, I assume? I'm not any insurance company's customer at the moment, but I would cheerfully pay a hundred dollars to someone who could handle this crap for me.

    2. I initially signed up through an insurance lady, but after the first year I use the Washington State Attorney General's site to sign up for Part D and, after careful checking, I've decided to stick with my initial choice for the other parts.

      Note: You need to change Part D providers every two years, and, in some cases, every year. The bastard insurance companies assume you'll just get lazy in November and stick with your incumbent. Don't do it. They raise the rates like crazy. It's a pain in the ass, but the AG makes Part D decision making easier. Of course, you don't have to sign up for Part D. When I became eligible, I actually went to the Social Security office, waited on a hard chair, and got the details from a grumpy lady who turned out to be nice. I trust nobody who wears a suit (or today's equivalent) so I needed to do that myself. I've not had to revisit the office since.


    3. Good advice I's sure, but I'm not bothering with Medicare yet, just the state's Medicaid, and I might not bother with that.

  3. That's way more than two cylinders man. You short yourself. Funny.

    1. Well... thanks.

      Both times in that paragraph,I typed syllables instead of cylinders. Didn't even notice until the third read-through.


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