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I decided back in college that I would be a writer when I grew up.

While I did grow up to be a writer, not once did I see myself writing about Medicare for the past 29+ years. Or doing direct response creative for nearly 40 years. And now that it’s time to kick back and trade in my Medicare crown — an imaginary, hard-earned symbol of my Medicare expertise — for a Medicare card, I have no regrets. Just a lot of memories (bear with me).

Cheryl, 2010.

The evolution of the information highway … followed by Medicare’s turnabout

When I started at DMW (then The McClure Group), a lousy cup of office coffee cost a quarter, but that aside, life was good. I could wear jeans to work every day.

The only problem, compared to today’s standards, was that doing research and getting healthcare facts and stats wasn’t easy. Writers didn’t have web access. Instead, we had a tiny copy clerk with immense power: a dial-up internet connection. We had to submit detailed research requests, hoping that a donut or a cup of mediocre coffee would get it rushed. Sometimes it took a week or more. My workaround was to avoid facts and stats — or to call the Philadelphia Free Library’s Help Desk.

About a year later, we were all connected. Technology and the digital age went gangbusters … making this writer’s life a whole lot easier.

Luckily, we were all familiar with the Internet in time for Medicare reform … and some new thing called Medicare Part D.

Still learning the alphabet, 10 years into the job

By 2005, I’d been writing about Medicare for over 10 years. I thought I knew it all. Little did I know my world was about to turn upside down: First, a crash course in Medicare drug coverage. Figuring it out was hard enough. Figuring out how to explain it to people so it made sense? Even harder. It was all new. There were no creative samples to fall back on.

Nearly 20 years ago, I wrote “boilerplate” Part D drug copy that’s still being used today. (Rationale for my crown, perhaps.)

But Part D was just the tip of the iceberg. Beginning in January 2006, Medicare beneficiaries would have limited ability to change health plans. That meant a lot of new acronyms, including OEP (Open Enrollment Period), MA-PD (Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan), PDP (Prescription Drug Plan), and AEP (Annual Enrollment Period). Our clients faced a lot of new challenges, like meeting membership goals in very short marketing timeframes. And it required a lot of commitment, dedication, and long hours from DMW staff to make it happen.

Now that it’s time to trade in my Medicare crown — an imaginary, hard-earned symbol of my Medicare expertise — for a Medicare card, I have no regrets. Just a lot of memories.

But the excitement of developing fresh creative concepts that delighted our clients … the rush of getting materials in-market on time and on budget … and the DMW camaraderie that developed over breakroom brainstorm sessions and celebratory happy hours? That never got old.

Cheryl, most recent employee picture.

The most difficult copy I ever had to write

Making the decision to retire at the end of this year was bittersweet. Am I really doing this? What am I going to do next?

Writing my official resignation letter was torture. My first draft was a bit wordy. My second draft was a bit emotional. Finally, I applied the KISS rule and kept it simple, stupid. My final draft was the shortest copy I ever wrote.

Now that I’m unplugging my company-issued laptop and my final Medicare copy is proofed, here’s what I know:

  • You get out what you put in. I worked with good people — colleagues and clients alike. We did good work together. Prospective and current clients — you’re in good hands.
  • I look forward to the next Medicare direct ad, whether it’s a letter, postcard, email, TV spot, or something else. I’ll be the agency’s #1 fan in the vaguely defined “older adult” category any day.
  • If you know what makes you happy, go for it.* Some people say the best part of retirement is not having to set an alarm. For me, it’s twofold. I’ll get to spend my days with my pets, including my Dalmatians. And I’ll get to wear soft pants all the time. (Not pajama pants or sweatpants necessarily. Usually cotton knit or flannel, often with cat designs. Aways a big elastic waistband.)

*Sage advice that’s applicable to your career, life, and clothing choices.