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Friday, 02 May 2014

What You Can Do at the Medicare and SSA Websites

[NOTE TO NON-U.S. READERS: You can safely skip reading today's post. It's all about the American system of Social Security and medical care for elders.]

In the eight years since I joined Medicare, my card has become not just smudgy but nearly in shreds. I have always wondered why it is issued on paper instead of plastic.

Even cardboard would be better. But no, and this photo doesn't show how fragile mine really is – that with the slightest mishandling it could easily disintegrate.

Medicare Card

Last week, I visited the Medicare website to see how to get a new card and it was easy – especially so because I had previously registered for My Medicare. A few clicks, no more than two minutes, and I was advised that it would soon be in the mail.

Because I recently had a physical exam and wellness visit with my primary care physician along with cataract surgery in both eyes and a foot problem that required some minor physical therapy, I've had more medical bills in two or three months than I usually have in that many years.

But all of the charges and payments are listed clearly for each physician and other specialists along with what I may or may not be expected to pay depending on my Medigap coverage.

Medicare has always snailmailed these healthcare documents but I like having them so tidy and available online – and not taking up the large amount of desk drawer space as in the past.

Also in My Medicare are my preferred providers (available if you've entered the information), current Medigap and Part D coverage details and there is a space for a remarkably thorough health summary if you take the time to enter all that information so it's all in one place.

Questions? In addition to the usual 800 number for Medicare, there is a button for a live online chat. And that is all in addition to the main Medicare website with databases of doctors, group practices and tons of other useful information.

Over at the Social Security website, there is another “my” service - My Social Security. You can check your benefit and payment details, change your bank deposit information when you need to, view earnings records, get a replacement card, a benefit verification letter and more.

Nearly 20 years ago when I was managing editor at the then-brand new cbsnews.com, everyone was new at making websites. At that time, CNN was the only other news site and we were stealing ideas from one another every day.

They, we and all kinds of other novices like us, many – also like us – at big-name companies, were making mistakes every day, learning while we were earning. The one place that was light years ahead of us was the Social Security website.

In those days, I used to exchange email with the woman (I'm so sorry I've forgotten her name) who was in charge of it and learned so much from her. Our website was almost as complicated as hers but in different ways so she and I traded ideas and I know I benefited much more than she did.

Now, all these years later (and the Affordable Care Act website debacle notwithstanding), the Social Security and Medicare websites are even better - models of user friendliness and efficiency.

If you haven't, you should explore them and sign up for My Social Security and My Medicare so they will be ready for you when you need them. Our tax dollars pay for these websites and they are worth every penny.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson: Now and Then


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I have signed up for My Medicare, but I did not even think about Social Security on line. Thanks.

I laminated my Social Security card many years ago to prevent just such deterioration. However, I have since learned you are NOT supposed to laminate your card, and I have met with much disapproval from the ladies behind the desks and counters when they see my plastic-covered card.

This blog ties in with seniors and technology. For those people who enjoy computers-these websites are so convenient. I love all of these kinds of websites that save time and energy looking for papers. It is all right there in order to look at and the numbers to call for questions. The only problem I have is remembering all the user names and passwords for the websites I use. Some have different requirements for constructing the user names and passwords. When I get this figured out, I will enjoy the convenient and compact way of looking at the websites.

Jessie...
I keep my IDs/passwords on a thumb drive that sits in a storage box at my desk and I can easily slip it into a USB drive when I need it.

In fact, I usually plug it in when I first sit down at my desk in the morning and put it away when I shut down at the end of the day.

I also keep a second thumb drive with the same information as backup.

You can buy plastic coated card covers at the office supply. I did and my cards look as good today as they did 10 years ago. Clear contact paper works, too.

Ronni & Jessie….

If I may suggest another method of securing that password information, if you have Microsoft Excel or even Word, create a file listing each website along with the associated User Name, Email Address and Password that you probably had to submit when initialing signing up at the subject site. Then after creating the file you can “password protect” the file itself which gets encrypted and protected. Then you only have one password that you really ever need to remember. The protected file can reside on your computer and there is no need to keep it on a separate device. A separate device for backup is good of course. I would also suggest naming the file something easy to remember but do not name it something like “My Passwords” of course. For example, I named mine “Passing on the Right” which gives a subtle hint to me but nothing of consequence should someone happen to kidnap my computer. At any rate – just a suggestion.

Wow, do I ever endorse the contents of today's article, Ronni. My Medicare is just fine for keeping track of records and reduces the pile of paper in my files.

And if you ever need to call Medicare for anything, well! A real person answers very quickly and is knowledgeable and understandable.

No outsourcing to India for this excellent customer service.

You can tell, I think we are getting a fantastic deal on this 'newfangled' medicare idea.

Great tips on password retrieval. If you set your computer to require a password to log on, you will have double protection.

Great info as usual Ronni!
A large sized address book holds all my password info and
each is titled and dated. This is very convenient, right
beside my computer desk....

Works for me!

Thanks Ronni and all readers!

There is another alternative to remembering passwords. It's a free site "Last Pass" and it will sign in for you and fill out forms.

I don't use straight Medicare, but have an HMO. I will check the S. S., however, so thanks for the tip.


So many people have agreed with me when I have mentioned how efficient,courteous and helpful the staff is at the Social Security Administration.

When I reached 65 and went to the SS office to register for benefits, the woman I met with spent a very long time figuring out what was the best way for me to take them.

I had worked for many years myself and had built up considerable benefits. My husband had also worked all those years. She worked out my payment if I took SS on my own record or took half of my husbands.

When I left that office I felt that my case had been given every consideration and that the way we decided to apply was the very best way for me to do it.

There were no computers in those days so you were really dependent on the staff to guide you in making the right decision.

They were so different from many other Government agencies that I have dealt with over the years.

So, cheers to the Social Security Staffs all over our Country.

Thanks for the info, I should sign up, I'm full up with paper. Great tips about storing passwords too, thanks everyone.

Like you, Ronnie, I registered for the Social Security site before I really needed to use it. I had waited for someone to answer for 4.45 hours at their phone number, -I just needed to know how to transfer from one bank to another for direct deposit and had just had eye surgery and wasn't able to read the website info.

Registering at these sites BEFORE we need them is the best thing one can do when it comes to dealing with any government office. I registered during a time that I had to have my password for the site mailed to me-I have no idea how they do it now, that it took 25 days for me to be able to access the site-and fortunately I had healed from cataract surgery.

I hope those who haven't yet done this-the younger folk perhaps, do this sooner rather than later.

Thanks again for the good info

Neighbor Elle in Beaverton

I just enrolled in My Medicare, thanks to this post. I had some trouble navigating the site and realized that I had to allow "pop-ups." Even after that I am still having some trouble. For example, I have no idea what my "drug ID" is, and the site doesn't tell you what/where it is. Oh well, I'll keep plugging away at it. It's very handy to have all of that information in one place.

It is so nice to have someone say something positive about the federal government.

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