Applying for Medicare, Part III

January 13, 2012

In my last post I concluded by noting that I had learned how much I was going to pay for Medicare and the next step would be to receive a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) with instructions on the mechanics of paying for it.

I was wrong on both counts.

The next letter I received was from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It welcomed me to Medicare, told me I was registered to use the website and that I should go there to complete my Initial Enrollment Questionnaire or “IEQ.” This was a bit puzzling since I had filled out a questionnaire during the enrollment process, but I concluded that this must be the first questionnaire since I became enrolled. In any case I went to the website and answered questions about my employment status, my wife’s employment stratus and whether or not I was receiving benefits for Black Lung, Worker’s Compensation or for illness or injury caused by someone else.

I next received a letter telling me again that I needed to pay an Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA). I had received a very similar letter a month earlier providing the same information about the IRMAA.  This second letter referenced the fact that I received the same information a month earlier. I still had no information about how to pay.

A few days later I received two letters on the same day. One letter from SSA in Jamaica, New York (my previous letters had been from my local SSA office) which told me my Medicare premium would be about $100 a month higher than the previous letters I had received. The other letter from CMS in St Louis was essentially a Medicare billing notice to pay yet another amount of money to cover Medicare Medical Insurance for a three month period.

Now I was thoroughly confused: I had three different amounts and a bill for one of those amounts. So I called my local SSA office and asked for help. A very nice person (who I had the sense has been through this a number of times) explained: Medicare charges most people a base amount to which is added the IRMAA. The first and second letters told me told me what my IRMAA would be; the third letter added the base amount and IRMAA together; the billing notice only covered the base amount for a three month period since St Louis was probably not up-to-date on my IRMAA. Her advice to me: pay the CMS billing notice amount and wait for St Louis to catch up on the correct billing.

I thanked her for her help and commented it was interesting that there had been a lot of communication but it still managed to create confusion. She responded: “That’s why we are here: to create confusion!” We both laughed and I thanked her again for alleviating mine.

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2012 R.K. Price