Applying for Medicare

A significant step in most people’s retirement is applying for Medicare.

After spending several days adjusting to the idea that I am actually old enough for Medicare, I decided to take the plunge. Actually, I am three months shy of my 65th birthday but Medicare suggests that one apply three months in advance.

You can apply at a Social Security Office or on-line. Since my blood pressure tends to surge while standing in lines in government offices, I opted for the on-line approach. I am pleased to report it worked well.

The entire process took just a few minutes and was mostly straightforward. The only quirky part was in the section describing what medical coverage I have now, and what I will have after age 65 from my previous employer. None of the boxes provided seemed to provide the opportunity to answer clearly. Fortunately there is a message box included in the on-line form which I was able to use to explain the situation. A push of the button and I was officially an applicant.

Today (about 10 days after applying) I received a “Notice of Award” telling me I am entitled to Medicare hospital and medical insurance beginning next year (I knew that). It also told me that “we will send you a Medicare card” and that “you can enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D)” which I won’t do because my former employer’s plan is better.

More ominously, the notice also told me “The benefit in this letter is the only one you can receive from Social Security.” That is wrong since I am also entitled to a retirement benefit (at least until Congress takes it away) but I attribute the errant sentence to poor draftsmanship in the government letter writing department.

More interestingly, the letter then went on at significant length to tell me what to do if I disagreed with the decision to send me a Medicare card including filing an appeal, getting representation, seeking reconsideration, getting a hearing, appealing to the Appeals Council, filing suit in Federal Court and directed me to the enclosed pamphlet which described all of this in greater detail. Whew!

The questions I wanted answered most were how much is this going to cost me and what are my payment options. On these topics there was no information provided. I am assuming all of this will come in due course. Time will tell.

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2011 R.K. Price


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