HELP LINE: Trick or treat in the world of Medicare

HAPPY (ALMOST) HALLOWEEN! Got your costume ready to go?

My first idea was to masquerade as an elder. Then, I realized that I am that costume, so I just moved on to posing as a millennial. It’ll take me 15 years to pay off the tattoos.

And with that particular holiday on our minds, we do realize that “open enrollment” for Medicare Part D is happening right now, right?

Good: trick or treat.

Now, a bit of this and that, so for openers, I’m going to quote an alert (if anonymous) reader, who writes more expressively than I do:

“I got three phone calls today from ‘The Department of Social Security Administration’ (an impressive sounding organization) telling me that my Social Security number had been suspended because of suspicious activity. Not being as dumb as I may look, I did not press ‘1’ to get more information. I have heard warnings about this scam before, but it might not be a bad idea to alert your readers again to this nefarious scheme. I wish the people who think up these scams would only put their energy into doing good. The world could certainly use some good.”

She’s right and smart. (Note to self: Try to use the word “nefarious” nine more times before the day is over).

And since we’re kinda sorta on a kinda sorta related topic(s), I presume we’ve all gotten our new Medicare cards by now, yes?

Remember, we all got these new ones, with unique, 11-character IDs, finally eliminating the use of our Social Security numbers.

And as of Jan. 1, 2020, the transition period is over, so we have to be using these ones.

If you haven’t gotten yours, you might want to look into it.

You can do that by:

• Calling 1-800-633-4227, TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048. There could be a problem that needs correcting, such as updating a mailing address;

• Sign in to your account, where you can see your new Medicare ID or print an official copy. If you don’t have an account, please consider creating one. It really does make a lot of things easier.

And let’s all remember this: Our various medical providers didn’t get these new cards. We did. So, we might want to give them the new ID the next time we’re in.

Something different: Judging from what I hear from folks, a lot of us have gotten onto the Medicare observation vs. admission debacle; that is to say, we understand the problem.

For those of us who don’t, the very short version is that if you spend three consecutive nights in a hospital, but are classified as an outpatient in observation status, a subsequent stay would not have been paid for by Medicare. You have to have been classified as admitted.

Anyway, since 2011, the Center for Medicare Advocacy has been pursuing a nationwide class action lawsuit seeking an appeal for Medicare beneficiaries who were classified as outpatient observation.

The trial was finally held in August, and is winding itself down with post-trial briefings, and other legal intricacies that I don’t understand, but: There should be a decision soon.

You don’t need to do anything to join the class, so just sit tight.

If you have any paperwork related to hospital observation status and resulting costs incurred, save it. This isn’t over until it’s over.

I want to wrap this up today with something that I think is very important: I got a lovely, but distressing, email from a local gal, referencing my oft-repeated phrase of “… call any of the numbers at the end of this column, and decent people will help you.”

I’m paraphrasing her email: I’m perfectly willing to call one of those numbers, but my situation is so complicated, that I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what question to even ask!

Good point: If we all knew exactly what question to ask, we’d be halfway to the answer.

Look: You don’t have to have the magic question. All you have to have is your story. You can call any of those numbers and tell your story, then let’s all go from there.

Actually, you don’t really need to even give your name, if you’d rather not, unless or until we get into something specific.

Until then, folks are just talking.

Or, thinking about your Halloween costume, you could just say that you’re Lucy Ricardo. It’ll be our little secret.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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