I recently received a Medicare Summary Notice for Medicare Part B.
If you are covered by Original Medicare, you will be familiar with these periodic notices that say THIS IS NOT A BILL. Contained in this month’s envelope was a yellow sheet printed in English on the front and Spanish on the back entitled “There’s an Easier Way to Manage Your Medicare.”
It is the kind of insert that, honestly, I usually throw out without much thought. But this time I decided to take a closer look.
The insert begins with a section on “How to Get Started” signing up for a free account at www.MyMedicare.gov. While I have a My Social Security account, which I covered in a recent column, I had never opened a MyMedicare account. So, I looked through the list of benefits outlined on the insert, which include:
“Get electronic Medicare Summary Notices (eMSNs) monthly to view your claims more timely”.
“See a calendar of your current and upcoming preventive services, like cancer screenings.”
“create and manage your prescription drug list.”
“View your Part B deductible information.”
“Create an On the Go Report so you can print your health information to share with your doctor and other healthcare providers.”
“Print and view your new Medicare Card.” (I am not sure why this option is included unless you are a new Medicare beneficiary and have not yet received your card or if you lose or accidentally destroy your card and need a replacement).
“Connect with trusted third parties to manage your personal health information on the go.”
One clear advantage is that you will have access to a secure link to your information much sooner than by simply receiving a paper copy. This is an additional option. By signing up for MyMedicare you can still receive paper copies of your Summary Notices.
After reviewing these benefits, I decided to create a MyMedicare account. Creating the account was a reasonably easy process. But I did encounter a few minor problems.
To create an account, you need to go to www.MyMedicare.gov. You log in to create an account and follow the directions through four screens. The first two are the only ones that really require you to enter information. Before you start, be sure to have your Medicare card.
You will be asked to provide the following information: Your Medicare number (this is your new number and not your Social Security number); mailing address; date of birth and gender; and the effective date for Medicare Part A. This date is located in parenthesis after Medicare Part A on your new Medicare card.
The next screen is where you actually create the account. You will need to create a username. While you can use your e-mail address, for security purposes I always recommend creating a unique username.
You will also need to use a password. Use can use parts of old street addresses or cities where you have lived to create passwords. In creating both a username and password you will need letters and numbers. You can also use a few special characters. You will be asked to answer one security question. Your answer can not be two words. So, if you were born in St. Petersburg that will be rejected.
The next two screens were very quick. You will receive an e-mail confirming that you opened an account. And, in about two weeks after you open your account you will receive a confirmation letter in the mail.
Unless you make a change on the site, you will continue to receive a paper copy of the Medicare and You publication. More importantly, unless you make a change you will continue to receive copies of your monthly eMSNs through the mail also. If you run into any problems setting up your account you can call 1-800-633-4227.
Finally, on a very different subject, for those of you who receive coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan there is some good news. As I have discussed in this column, there have been some fears that physicians are leaving Advantage plans resulting in networks becoming smaller and more restricted.
However, in a study supported by the Commonwealth Fund which was just published in the April issue of the journal Health Affairs, reports that the opposite is true. According to Yevgeniy Feyman and his colleagues, “Medicare Advantage plans’ primary care networks are becoming less limited, not more. Plans with so-called “narrow networks” dropped from 2.7 percent of all offerings in 2011 to 1.8 percent in 2015.”
Given the increasing popularity of Advantage plans, more choices within plans is very good news for beneficiaries.
Who do I contact in Oneida County for help with my Medicare issues?
The Oneida County Office for the Aging/Continuing Care/NY Connects Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance program (HIICAP) offices provide their services at no cost to Medicare beneficiaries. Many are not aware that HIICAP offers services throughout the year and not simply during Open Enrollment. Oneida County HIICAP offices are found at the following locations:
• Copper City Community Connection (formally the Ava Dorfman Senior Citizens Civic Center), 305 E. Locust St., with hours of operation on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. While consumers are seen on a “first come, first served” basis, you may call the center at 315-337-1648 to see if there are long wait times.
• North Utica Senior Citizens Community Center, 50 Riverside Drive, Utica with hours of operation on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Consumers are counseled on a “first come, first served” basis. However, if you want to call ahead to see how busy the office is you may call the Center’s HIICAP program at 315-724-8680.
• HIICAP services are provided by Oneida County Office for Aging and Continuing Care/NY Connects. Anyone with questions about HIICAP, including issues with your Medicare Advantage Plan, should call the program directly at 315-798-5456 and press 4 in the choice list. It will direct you to someone who can assist you.
Dr. William Lane is the owner of William Lane Associates, a gerontological firm located in Homer, NY. He writes a monthly column on HIICAP related issues for the OFA. Dr. Lane does not sell insurance, work for any insurance company or recommend any insurance products.