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Making Contact

Andrew Forsythe, 1:03 pm ET

I TURN 70 IN JANUARY and my wife just turned 65. I recently applied for my Social Security benefits, and got her kicked off with Medicare. I needed to call both agencies. What a contrast I’ve seen in their responsiveness.

As I’ve conceded before, I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to this topic.

We set up my wife’s online Medicare account, and she designated me as her “authorized representative.” Like most couples, we divide the labor, and one of my assignments is handling all medical and insurance accounts.

I wanted to pay her premiums quarterly, and have them align with my premium payment schedule. That required first changing her payments to monthly for one month, and then back to quarterly. For the sake of bill paying convenience, I gave it a whirl.

I called Medicare, got the usual robot, and chose the “call back” option. I received a call within minutes. The rep immediately saw my “authorized representative” designation, understood my request, and said it would be sent to the “Advanced Resolution Center” for action.

Eight days later, I called back and spoke to a different rep, who was equally polite and helpful. He told me my request had been granted and my wife’s billing would now be monthly.

As soon as I received her monthly Medicare bill, I paid it. Then, a few days later, I called Medicare to request a change back to quarterly billing. I spoke with a third rep, who was as polite and helpful as the previous two, and she processed my request.

Finally, about a week later, I called Medicare and spoke to a fourth rep, who was likewise courteous and helpful. She confirmed my wife had now been switched back to quarterly billing.

I was a happy camper. Now I can pay both our Medicare premiums once a quarter, as well as our Medigap and Part D premiums, which were already in sync. The Medicare folks made it all pleasant and easy.

My wife thinks I’m crazy to have gone to all this trouble just to have perfectly aligned Medicare bills, but I doubt she’s surprised. She’s been living with an OCD husband for 33 years.

Now, the dark side: I submitted my online application for Social Security benefits four months before my birthday, as recommended. My online Social Security account indicates that a review of my application began on Sept. 10. For most people, that takes two to four weeks.

My application is simple, so when I saw no progress after six weeks, I called the field office where my review is pending. The first few times I couldn’t get past the phone robot from hell.

When I finally did, a receptionist gave me the extension for the employee reviewing my application. After several attempts over the last couple of weeks, I’ve neither gotten through to her nor had a call back, despite leaving polite voicemails.

What a difference an agency makes.

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Arnold Hold
Arnold Hold
13 days ago

A few years ago I applied for Social Security, and already was on Medicare. Anyway, took about four months to finally get set up as Social Security required I submit an original birth certificate, which I brought over to a local office. What a hassle, and it wasn’t time sensitive to myself, just wanted to get it done, but providing an original birth certificate (no copy) to Social Security is not an unusual request according to the representative I spoke with. Point is, be prepared for delays with any government agency, and you have to comply as there is no alternative.

Kevin Mathews
Kevin Mathews
14 days ago

Interesting, I’ve had the opposite experience. The IRS keeps confusing me with my deceased wife and declares me deceased every year, not allowing me to file. They say Social Security is telling them I’m deceased. When I call the SSA they have been fast and responsive. Letters verifying my status come sooner than promised helping me to straighten things out with the IRS.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
14 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Mathews

Kevin, hope the IRS soon figures out you’re still alive.

My problems with SS have been specifically with the field office where my application is pending, which is different than my local office or the central phone number. That may explain our opposite experiences.

Nate Allen
Nate Allen
14 days ago

When starting your article, I mistakenly read “…got her kicked off with Medicare.” as “…got her kicked off of Medicare.”

For a moment, I was wondering what horrendous thing you could have done to get kicked off of Medicare.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
14 days ago
Reply to  Nate Allen

Nate, I probably should’ve worded that sentence a little differently!

Harold Tynes
Harold Tynes
14 days ago

I’ll add another wrinkle to your story. I’m under Railroad Retirement so my Medicare signup is with them as will be my retirement payments when I decide to start them. I was on hold for a while to request my Medicare forms. Once I returned them their response was quick. Hope it goes as well when it is time to initiate Retirement payments. Of course, I will probably have your experience or worse when I deal with my wife’s Medicare/Social Security in the future. I also have to deal with the IRS from time to time, they are the worst.

Last edited 14 days ago by Harold Tynes
Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
14 days ago
Reply to  Harold Tynes

Harold, thanks for your comments. I’ve had some crazy experiences when trying to communicate with the IRS on a (thankfully) few occasions in the past. But don’t get me started….

An
An
14 days ago

If you are starting SS in January (receive 1st months’ benefit in February), don’t expect the online status to change until late December or early January.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
14 days ago
Reply to  An

Thanks, An. Glad to hear that from you as it looks like I’ll never get a response from SS.

Last edited 14 days ago by Andrew Forsythe

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