Signing Up for Medicare: My Personal Adventure, Part 1
Buckle up for quite a ride . . .
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 when I recently signed up for Medicare, I thought I’d share my experience with the hope that my words may help 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, the process is relatively painless—if a person is already on Social Security. 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 visit 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 got on the phone told me I could sign up on the Web site. 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 try it again, but 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. I waited yet another day and 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. Okay, now we were on the same page, as they say.
The woman got me signed up for Medicare Part A (hospital) and Part 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 fun began.
More about Medicare parts and plans in next week’s column.
Published September 13, 2010