Medicare Enrollment – COVID Edition

Back “in the day” (that would be February of 2020), I advised clients to start their Medicare enrollment 2 to 3 months prior to the effective date they desired.   If you were just turning 65, the online process was usually smooth and timely (3-week turnaround for your Medicare number).  If you were 65+ and retiring, my advice was to head to a Social Security office at 8:20am with your L564 in hand and you’d be all set by 9:30am. All of this changed on March 17, 2020. That was the date that Social Security closed its offices due to COVID-19.  Unfortunately, they appear to keep sinking deeper into a backlog of enrollment requests.   During your first call to Social Security, you may be told that all they can do is schedule you for a telephone appointment 6 weeks in the future.  During that call, they end with the disclaimer that it will take 30-60 more days to process your application.  Total time from your first contact to getting a Medicare number2 ½ to 3 ½ MONTHS.Now, a couple of clarifying statements:

  • We are talking about the enrollment for Medicare Parts A & B, which is done through Social Security and is the prerequisite for enrollment into either Medicare supplement or Medicare Advantage
  • The enrollment experience can vary significantly between Social Security offices
Here are some tips to help you prepare now for your Medicare enrollment
  1. Set up an account at NOW
Medicare enrollment is done through Social Security.  With the offices being closed, your best track for enrollment is done online.You may think “No big deal”, but the hang up is that setting up an account involves use of credit information.  If you have “frozen” your credit and Social Security cannot access your credit information, you will have to call Soc Sec just set up an online account.  And then the 6-week delay in getting a telephone appointment comes into play.  Another scenario would be if you can’t remember who held your auto loan in 2008…  Or if you remember correctly, but your credit report is incorrect.  In all of these circumstances, you cannot pass Go or collect $200 or set up a Social Security online account. 2. Enroll in Medicare Part AIf you are 65+ and still on your employer group health insurance, you may have foregone enrolling in Medicare Part A.  Medicare Part A is for hospital coverage and has $0 premium for most working folks and their spouses.Good News:$0 PremiumAdditional coverage for a hospitalizationYOU ARE ISSUED A MEDICARE NUMBERBad News:You must do this enrollment via a phone call since the online enrollment is geared to Part B.  1-800-772-1213Notable Exception:Contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA) is prohibited if you are enrolled in any aspect of Medicare.
  1. Start your Enrollment 3 to 4 months prior to your desired effective date
Medicare is all about Enrollment Periods.  When you turn 65, your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) begins 3 months before your 65th birthday month.  Start your Medicare enrollment as soon as you enter your IEP!If you are 65+ and preparing for retirement, give yourself more time to get your Medicare ducks in a row.  You will enter Medicare via a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).  You now want to set that retirement date out 4 months if you can and a minimum of 3 months so your health insurance coverage is seamless.Let me conclude by saying that I do NOT work for Medicare or Social Security and these comments are not from Medicare or Social Security.  My statements and suggestions are based on the feedback and frustration from my clients who are enrolling in Medicare now (May, June, July of 2020).

COVID 19 Info – March 27, 2020

Information via the Colo Gerontological Society:

  1. Social Security field offices are closed, but individuals can make appointments if they are in a dire situation and there is a problem with their Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Income and/or Social Security. Most Social Security employees are continuing to work remotely processing claims.
  2. Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage plans are required to pay for all costs associated with COVID-testing. THERE ARE NO-COPAYS.
  3. Medicare Part D has relaxed the early re-fill policy; thus individuals can get their medications filled upon request. Furthermore, individuals can request additional re-fills such as a 90-day supply without waiting.
  4. Telehealth is available to Medicare and Medicaid providers. Physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other medical professionals such as counselors, specialists, and others can bill Medicare and Medicaid for phone calls, video conferencing, or other virtual contact. This reduces the need for Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries to not have to leave their home and get the care they need.


Medicare began the transition from utilizing Social Security numbers (SSN) to a new combination of letters and numbers, known as the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), in 2018.  Up until 12/31/2019, we have been able to continue submit apps with SSNs.No can do now.  As of 1/1/2020, a MBI is required on applications to supplement and Medicare Advantage insurers.This will most greatly impact people entering Medicare and not allowing enough time to receive their Medicare numbers.  I've often said that the hardest part of Medicare enrollment is NOT choosing the right Med Advantage or supplement plan, but it's getting your number from Medicare/Social Security!You need to allow yourself 3-4 weeks prior to the effective date you desire to obtain that MBI.Regardless of whether you are just turning 65 or older and retiring, I can help you with the entire enrollment process - getting that MBI, supplement or Med Advantage and Rx plans.


  • Medicare Savings Program (Medicaid):  Free consultation and enrollment assistance 1-855-293-6911


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