Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Self-ful, Health-ful AEP

On paper, 2014 was my least successful Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP).  The AEP, which now runs from October 15 through December 7, is akin to tax time for accountants or harvest time for farmers.  It is during this time that people on Medicare can change their prescription coverage and/or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

Overall, the chaos has been great for my business.  When I went on my own in 2006, very few people knew how the new prescription drug coverage worked, only that they needed to sign up for something.  Once people found out that I understood it and could explain so that most people could understand it, they told their friends and family about me.  It wasn't unusual for me to show up at an appointment I had scheduled at the home of a couple and have a half dozen other people there too.  I very quickly went from having a handful of customers to having hundreds.  Without that chaos, I probably would have failed quickly.

Instead, my business took off. I helped a lot of people, and I've won a couple of trips and trophies for my number of sales.

But it hasn't been all sunshine and tuna and pelicans.  I've had some rough times and close calls.  The standard has been that I would run like crazy, sucking down pots of coffee to wake up in the morning, run all day from appointment to appointment, and then pound drinks when I got home in order to be able to finally go to sleep and do it again the next day.

I've been trying to back it off for several years, but 2013 made me realize I HAD to slow down during AEP.  Literally.  Right at the end of AEP two years ago I had worked myself into such an exhaustion that my brain was pretty much shut down, even though my eyes were open.  I was driving to an appointment and couldn't figure out why the guy coming the other way was turning left directly across my path.  It wasn't until after I had clipped his back quarter panel that I realized that he turned in front of me because he had the green arrow and I had a red light that I had just run right through.  My truck was damaged, but his car was much worse.  He was mad, but luckily didn't punch me.  I probably deserved it.

I did better in 2014, but still ran myself down, got sick for the 9th straight year, and took almost no time at all for myself, my family, friends, or anything else but work.  In 2015 I got it right, I think.

This year, my new sales were about 1/10 of what they have been in past years during this time, but I did a pretty good job of focusing on taking care of my existing customers, and more importantly, taking care of myself.  I got good sleep when I needed to.  I cut back some on exercise, but kept it going, and even did a "50k" race.   I didn't take complete days off, but I took some time to bow hunt during the rut, something I haven't done for the past 10 years.  I took a class.  I spent more time with my family.  I even took advantage of some beautiful weather and camped out a couple of nights when I was on the road instead of driving home tired or staying in a questionable hotel room.
Poe Hollow, Mount Ayr, Iowa
I wrote fifteen new blog posts during AEP, which is fifteen more than the prior nine years combined, and also wrote 2 new songs.  Instead of gaining 10 or 15 pounds and feeling completely wiped out at the end of AEP, I'm .2 pounds lighter and feeling great.  That's success in my book.

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