Patience required for Medicare explanation
BY PATSY PRIDGEN
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Since becoming Medicare eligible, I’ve encountered an agency even more difficult to deal with than the cable company: the Social Security Administration.
Correspondence is confusing, and the wait to talk to a real person on the phone is punishing.
I’d been looking forward to turning 65 and qualifying for Medicare. Silly me, I thought Medicare was free for old folks. I now know it’s not, especially if you‘re married to someone who’s still employed like my husband. Just how much my Part B is going to cost me has taken the government a while to figure out. I’ve had three bills now since December, and none of them match. Determined to get to the bottom of things, I called the 1-800 number given in a letter from the Social Security Administration for people who “have questions about your Part A or Part B bill amount ...”
Oh, I had questions, all right.
After being thanked for calling by a recorded voice and told my call may be monitored, I was subjected to several announcements such as a warning about fraudulent calls, an explanation of this year’s COLA and a suggestion that I could go online to find answers to my questions. Then I was subjected to the main menu, where I had to choose my problem from the options given.
The real kicker came when I finished all the preliminaries only to learn there would be a 40-minute wait to talk to a representative.
Forty minutes! I put my phone down on my desk, walked out of the room and went upstairs to put in a load of laundry. I cleaned up the kitchen, loading the dishwasher and sweeping the floor. With 10 minutes to go, I checked the phone again. I was still on hold, so I started organizing the piles of papers on my desk. Close to the 40-minute mark, I faintly heard what sounded like a real voice on the phone. I snatched up the receiver and put it to my ear.
After having to again supply identification, I explained about the inconsistent billing. “Hmm,” my representative responded. “May I put you on hold while I assess your situation?”
Being put on hold again was the last thing I wanted to have happen, but what choice did I have? Fortunately, she came back on the line after a few minutes — but unfortunately, she put me on hold two more times while she studied my case.
It turned out the government had simply charged me a basic Medicare rate to begin with. After I was signed up, the Social Security people then took their sweet time figuring out what my premium should be. I was then back billed for the difference. Also, my check for the second month wasn’t processed until three weeks after I sent it. “You should be getting a letter explaining the final calculation in a few weeks.”
Weeks, did I hear weeks? Not a few days? Oh no, I was dealing with the Social Security Administration. Take a number and wait. And then wait some more.
Check out Patsy Pridgen’s blog at www.patsypridgen.com.