I turned sixty-five recently, Medicare age. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I often confused Medicare with Medicaid, so being a retired teacher, I started my quest in July by informing myself about my options.
I learned that I had a seven month window to enlist in Medicare without acquiring a penalty; I learned there were several parts to Medicare – the most important being A, B, C, and D; I learned I could do it easily online without having to go to the nearest Social Security Office. If I started in October or November, I could get this over and done with by the start of my “birthday month” – January.
This is the story of my snipe hunt:
First week in November – The Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS) called and demanded my Medicare number ASAP! (So much for my seven-month window!) My current health insurance with them had enrolled me in a new prescription program but they needed my number by early December!!!! I also received a packet from TRS. If I wanted to stay with my TRS insurer, I had to enroll in Medicare A and B ASAP. It prompted me to act.
The Social Security Administration (SS) website red flagged me when I tried to enroll online, so I went to the local office. After a two and a half hour wait, I saw a SS representative who sent me home to find “important documents” and scheduled my next appointment for December 30th.
TRS called again insisting on a Medicare number. It prompted me to go back to the SS office before my December appointment.
Mid-November – A different SS representative refused my “important documents.” They were useless and I did not have sufficient “quarters,” but if I insisted on Medicare A, I would have to pay an exorbitant premium. I went home without enrolling.
I called TRS. Three different representatives insisted that as a retired Texas teacher, I only needed to enroll in and pay for Medicare B. The rest would be covered by my TRS Medicare insurance.
My third SS representative argued that I could not sign up for Part B only; a fourth representative intervened and did as I requested.
I called, faxed, and mailed my Medicare number to TRS. I thought I was through enrolling and with time to spare.
December – I received ID cards for Medicare Plan B and TRS Plan D.
Early January – I called TRS about my missing insurance card (the one that replaced Medicare Plan A and C) and learned that I was not insured. I argued with the representative but she insisted I go back to the SS office and purchase Medicare A.
The SS office closed at noon that day, so I returned home, tried to sign up online, and got through. It prompted me to wait 5 business days for an answer.
Ten days later - A SS representative called. She promised to send me a form ASAP which she suggested I fill, sign, and take to the local office in person.
Ten days after that -I got the SS form. I returned to the SS office the next day, and after a two-hour wait, I see a representative who informed me that as a retired Texas teacher I did not need Medicare A. I never did, but since I insisted he referred me to their Medicare expert. She told me the same thing, but before I left the building, I called TRS one more time.
The TRS representative stated I never needed Medicare A. I made her repeat it twice.
I thanked the SS representative, retrieved my two-inch thick file folder, and left.
My snipe hunt for Medicare A wasted three full months of my life - on the phone, in waiting areas, and talking to fifteen different customer representatives.