Bursack: Medicare sign-up turns into adventureEditor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on Medicare. Dear Readers: Questions about signing up for Medicare coverage – for oneself or a parent – come to me regularly.
By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on Medicare.
Dear Readers: Questions about signing up for Medicare coverage – for oneself or a parent – come to me regularly.
Confusion over Medicare parts and plans and letters is understandable. Since I had my share of head-scratching after recently signing up for Medicare, I thought I’d share my experience with the hope that it could clarify the process for some people.
As I’m still working, I had the honor of finding out early in the process that I am now one of the “working aged.” Gee, I thought I was a pretty savvy senior, if nothing else. Perhaps someone 65 or older could have helped come up with a more dignified label? But I digress.
Once upon a time, nearly everyone signing up for Medicare, other than someone prematurely disabled, was retired. Since the process of signing up for Medicare goes through Social Security, if a person is already on Social Security, the process is relatively painless. However, for the millions of us who are now signing up with Medicare for medical benefits but are not retired, there are some twists in the journey.
My first step was to go to www.socialsecurity.gov and try to do the process online, since the wait on the phone is interminable and the online process is “preferred.”
I did everything I was instructed to do and then found out that I couldn’t sign up for Medicare coverage online if I wasn’t already receiving Social Security. I had to call the toll-free number.
Thrilled beyond measure at having wasted an hour filling out online forms, I put off the call until the next day. I needed to recover my sense of humor.
The following day, I called Social Security. The person I spoke with on the phone told me I could sign up on the website. I told him I had tried that but got to a certain point and then could go no further since I was still working. He told me to go back and then keep going even after the notice to stop and I’d then be given the go-ahead.
I went back online and tried again, carefully following his instructions. Once more, I was halted and could go no further.
The next day, I called Social Security once more. This time, I got a person on the phone who knew what she was doing. She told me, no, I couldn’t sign up for Medicare online if I wasn’t retired. OK, now we were on the same page, as they say.
The woman got me signed up for Medicare Parts A (hospital) and B (doctor appointments and related costs). Part A, we have paid for through our payroll deductions. Part B, if we choose to carry it, has a premium. I felt Part B was necessary for me, so I signed on.
Then the real fun began.
More about Medicare parts and plans in next week’s column.
Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.