Readers Write: How I spend my retirement

The Island Now

I retired from my day job at the end of 2017.

For the first month, I sharpened pencils, watched Judge Judy, and contemplated getting hearing aids.

Since then, I’ve spent a large portion of my time correcting the errors of medical practices and hospitals, the state tax agency, and the federal Medicare agency — all of which made significant errors amounting to thousands of dollars.

Unsurprisingly and defying the odds, the errors are always in their favor and never in mine. And if I want to keep some of my money in retirement, I have to spend hours of my finite life, which I resent.

I love my dermatologist, and I paid a $30 copay.

But my insurance company, probably in error, said I didn’t owe a copay. Not only that, but the biller wanted an addition $44 for what she said was a balance in my unspent insurance deductible.

Since the services were in November, I had already spent my deductible of $500.

Called the biller and then sent her an email with an attachment of documents. I said I’d eat the copay that I may or may not owe, enough time spent on this.

Never heard back.

Then I sent another email memorializing (as the attorneys says) the transaction, just in case it comes back to haunt me.

My wife and I both love our ophthalmologist, and the billing person is very eager to please. But I just sent an email with a six-page email attachment with EOBs and canceled checks. I hope to get it straightened out by fall.

And then there’s the large hospital system, whose name shall not be mentioned.

It doesn’t send a bill. It sends a letter that states you owe some very large amount.

The letter says the patient can telephone and request a bill. I make the call and get the bill. The hospital system has a contract with my insurance company that states I owe a specific copay and no more.

Yet, that system’s bills, at least in my case, always have additional charges that get reversed after time-consuming protests.

Does that happen to others? Seems like the letter-only policy is a money maker, especially when sent to the elderly who have too much trust and insufficient resources to protest.

Here’s a good bit of news. Love my dentist and now I love the biller. I owe about $750 for a balance on a crown. Yet I never get a bill. My policy reminded them once. Done.

And then there’s my wife’s Medicare Part B.

Apparently, my wife’s application, filed in timely manner, was lost in the electronic system. We both made many calls to the Medicare 800 number, most of which required a 50-minute wait.

The calls apparently resulted in more errors being inputted, including a Part B application that we didn’t authorize.

Only with the help of Sen. Gillibrand’s office, and a friend of a friend who works at Medicare did the issue get resolved. However, the hospital system whose name shall not be mentioned is still asking us to call Medicare again so the system can get $150.

And then there’s the state tax department.

We bought a Great Neck co-op in 2016. The state tax department just notified us that it cannot locate the seller’s tax payment, and if he doesn’t pay up my wife and I will be responsible for the payment of the taxes plus penalty.

Called my lawyer who called the seller. Copies of proof of payment quickly sent to me.

I write a cover letter to the state, copy the copies, go to the post office and get certified mail. Get yelled at by the postal worker because I didn’t know how and where to paste all the labels.  Case closed a week later.

Now I’m waiting for about $180 that the state tax department erroneously billed me for back taxes, plus a penalty.

The back taxes occurred because my accountant failed to include a document. The penalty is because the state tax department claims it couldn’t locate me after my move to the co-op.

A few phone calls, letters from me and the accountant, trips to the post office, still waiting for a reply.

And then there’s the STAR rebate for the co-op.

After not hearing from the tax authorities, I made three calls to inquire and was told everything is in order, just wait.

After waiting and waiting, I made calls and sent emails to Anthony D’Urso, my state assemblyman, and Elaine Phillips, my state senator.

Got my check, tardy. Thanks Mr. D’Urso and Ms. Phillips.

But apparently the state won’t pay a penalty for the late payment.

That’s the report from my first six months of retirement.

Fortunately, I had time to pursue all the errors of agencies and organizations, spending precious hours of my finite life on the phone and my computer. I was hoping to spend that time at Jones Beach.

What do people do who don’t have the time or the resources to pursue these issues? Answer: they give their money away, or receive a dunning letter from a health care system or tax collector.

Mark Winiarski

Great Neck


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