Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, is here to provide the Medicare answers you need in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil.
Note from Phil Moeller: If you know anyone who works for Medicare, please share this story with them and ask them to do whatever it takes to help this courageous woman.
Mary: I am a quadriplegic and have been since I had an injury on June 11, 2012. During the time of my injury, I was under my employer’s large health plan and stayed on this plan until March 1 of this year. I had to go on COBRA [COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which allows workers to continue their group health coverage for 18 or 36 months following a qualifying event], since my employer switched to a different insurance company then. I was given 10 days’ notice to decide if I wanted to elect COBRA coverage and also was never informed about COBRA rules, specifically with Medicare, and the coordination of benefits. At 46, I never thought that I needed to even think about Medicare.
During the time I was on my employer’s health plan, Medicare automatically enrolled me, since I was disabled and collecting Social Security Disability Insurance. When I received my Medicare packet in the mail, I called the company who brokers the health plan to my company and asked them if I had to sign up for Medicare. They told me no, as my company has well over 100 employers. They said that I might as well keep Medicare Plan A since it was free and decline Part B since I had to pay for it. I followed their advice, because at the time, I had a high deductible health plan that paid for everything, including lots of physical therapy and the numerous medical expenses that I incur with my condition.
When I received the email from the benefits person in February of this year regarding the new insurance plan, I elected a COBRA policy with the new insurer. Just a few weeks ago, many providers started calling me stating that the new insurer was asking for its money back because I was entitled to Medicare and Medicare should be paying first. Well, I did not elect Medicare Part B, so this is leading me into the jam.
Philip Moeller is a research fellow at the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and co-author of “How to Live to 100.”
He wrote his latest book, “How to Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” with Making Sen$e’s Paul Solman and Larry Kotlikoff. He is now working on a companion book about Medicare.