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.