In previous articles, I addressed how seniors are needlessly exposed to financial scams because their Social Security number is on their Medicare Card (see line to 1st Medicare Card article) and the way the Social Security Administration in working to avoid this by rising new cards containing random identification numbers (see line to 2nd Medicare card article). I though the problem was about taken care of, but now the saga continues… with yet a new debacle I call “Medicare card limbo”!
Here’s How My “Odyssey” (or should I say “run around”) Began
I had recently scheduled an appointment with a doctor and, so is routine procedure with most medical offices, his staff called me in advance to confirm my insurance coverage information. I had not received my new Medicare card, so I gave them my old card number as well as my secondary insurance information. Everything seemed business as usual.
Then, a few days before my appointment, I received a frantic voicemail, saying my Medicare card was rejected by their system and I need to call back and re-verify it. After several ___ calls by me (each time being placed on hold for our 20 minutes!), I finally spoke with a lady in the doctor’s office. I gave her my Medicare card number again, only to find 0ut it was again rejected by her system (which she said was directly linked to the Social Security Administration database)! She then went on to explain this completely crazy…
“Catch – 22”
She said I wouldn’t be able to see the doctor – and here’s the nutty reason why. Without Medicare coverage, they would have to directly bill my secondary insurance company. But they were sure the claim would be denied because the secondary carrier only covers whatever portion of the doctor cost that Medicare refuses to pay, and if the secondary insurer didn’t see a written rejection from Medicare, they wouldn’t cover anything! To top it off, the doctor’s office wouldn’t be able to submit a billing to Medicare without my correct member, so the secondary coverage wouldn’t kick in and instead they would require I pay the entire fee at my doctors visit! When I responded, “Can I pay for it, and if you later get paid by Medicare or my secondary carrier, you will reimburse me?” she said “Sorry, we don’t have a system for doing that!”
So she told me I would have to cancel my appointment unless I could resolve all this with Medicare. I was not happy, as I had already waited several months to see this doctor!
At least, she did give me a “special” Medicare customer service number to call but here’s where…
The Plot “Sickens”
I repeatedly tried to contact Medicare by phone, but every time was placed on hold for over 45 minutes, to the point I just about gave up. Between my doctor’s office and Medicare calls I had already wasted multiple hours!
So I got back to the lady at the doctor’s office and her next suggestion was to go to the ssa.gov website and pull up my Medicare account. I had to enter a lot of personal, identifying information. I did not recall ___ opening as account on that site, so I endeavored to create a new one. Each time I did, it rejected me, indicating I already had an account. Then, I tried to enter my existing account, using every user name and password I could think of. No luck! Finally, it wouldn’t even let me in to try again!
So I waited til the next day. This time, instead of testing more user names and passwords, I straight away requested my “forgotten” user name, then my password (which I wound up “resetting”). Apparently, I had in fact opened an account a few years before reaching Medicare qualification age (65), just to check that my Social Security earning had been reported correctly, for purposes of my Social Security retirement income (not Medicare). I finally accessed my account, only to then realize I had to search the seemingly endless and confusing ssa.gov account site to find out…
Where’s My Medicare Number?
I probably searched for over an hour on that site, until I came across a tab called “Certification Letter” where, almost invisibly buried in the text of the letter, I located my Medicare number - - a different, new one not on my existing card! (Apparently the Social Security Administration had already issued and implemented my new number in their system, the one the doctor’s office checked, before they had even sent me my new card!).
So, finally, I was able to handle everything successfully with my doctor’s office, kept my appointment and (thankfully) got a “clean bill” - - of health!
Lessons from this Cautionary Tale
If you haven’t received your new Medicare card yet, I highly recommend that you go to ssa.gov and open an account (if you don’t already have one) or check your existing account. Grab your new Medicare number now, so you have it until your new card arrives. Don’t place yourself in a position where you may need immediate medical care and can’t get the cost covered by your available Medicare (and secondary insurance) - - or wind up having to pay for it yourself!