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Medicare’s Initial Enrollment Period

Today’s video addresses what can go wrong during the Initial Enrollment Period for those applying for Medicare Part A and/or Part B during this time. Remember, the Social Security Administration handles Medicare Part A and B Enrollment. This video does not suggest that they don’t handle it well. Things can and do go awry, however, so our objective is to encourage you (as with all matters coverage-related) to plan ahead, start the process early and leave nothing to chance.

To recap information presented in previous videos, if you are on Medicare due to serious illness or disability prior to reaching age 65, or if you take your Social Security benefit prior to age 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and B. Everyone else has to actively enroll and the vast majority of Americans will want their Medicare in place as soon as they are eligible at age 65. Workers who have earned premium-free Medicare Part A may use an on-line process to enroll. Those who are eligible for premium-free Part A on a spouse’s or former spouse’s work record must make a telephone appointment because Social Security suspended in-person meetings in March of 2020 due to the pandemic.

A list of problems follows. Most of these issues affect those eligible to use the on-line process for Medicare enrollment. Many people who are not eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A on their own work record should still be able to create and should create a MySocialSecurity account.

  • Inability to create a Social Security account which is done from the ssa.gov web site. The user name and password for a Social Security account are needed for those who earned premium-free Part A on their own work record. Some individuals have difficult security questions; some do not. Examples of difficult questions include “what was your first credit card, what bank held your auto loan in 1996, how many rooms were in the house you were living in 2003?” Answers are multiple choice but if you don’t answer the questions correctly, you’ll be shut out but can try again in 24 hours. Please persevere. Once you’ve prevailed, you go back to ssa.gov to use the on-line Medicare enrollment tool.
  • The Social Security portal does not recognize your Social Security number when you try to create an account. If this happens, call Social Security.
  • A mismatch between the information you supplied and the information the government has on file for you. If this happens, you’ll typically get a message from Social Security that your application is incomplete or not being processed. Please call Social Security.
  • Someone has tried to inappropriately access your Social Security information so Social Security does not allow use of the on-line process. This is for your protection because scamsters abound! It can be annoying (but reassuring) that Social Security is cautious to prove you are you.
  • There is a miscommunication regarding what phone number to call for the telephone appointment scheduled with Social Security to enroll in Medicare. Alternatively, there is no mix-up but you don’t receive the call you expected. If you don’t receive the call at the scheduled time, follow-up with Social Security immediately.

Once your enrollment has been completed, track progress on your Social Security account. If you don’t see progress, call your local Social Security office. Due to the pandemic and the elimination of in-person appointments, many offices have published their local numbers which can be found on ssa.gov.

Again, plan ahead, start the process early and leave nothing to chance. If you do all those things, you optimize your chances of receiving your Medicare number timely which will be on your Medicare card. The card is mailed to you at your address on file. You need your Medicare number to apply for a Medicare Part D Plan, a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare supplement. You will want to apply well in advance of your desired effective date just in case something goes wrong and because you ideally want to have all insurance cards in hand before the date your coverage begins.