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Navigating the Medicare Enrollment Process

Medicare-enrollmentMost people heading into retirement know life after work isn't all shuffleboard on the lido deck. There can be serious money and health care concerns, not to mention worries about boredom and relationship conflict with all that newfound free time. Less apparent may be the sheer number of hours some retirees put in to straighten out the complications that can crop up when managing life in retirement.

The Chicago Tribune’s May 29 story “Steps to take when disputing a denied health insurance claim” tells the story of Larry Tocco and his attempt to enroll in Medicare. Larry retired last year from a job in the collections department of a credit union. After some medical treatment, he started receiving past-due notices from health care providers after his claims on a Medicare plan weren't paid. After several frustrating phone calls, Larry learned he was still on the active employee roll of the health insurance plan covering his former employer. As a result, his Medicare plan was considered secondary coverage.

A benefits manager from the credit union told him they sent the retirement paperwork, but the representatives with the Medicare provider said they didn't get it.

Although Larry’s bills were less than $400, he worried about what could happen if he suddenly had a major health issue before the fiasco was resolved and couldn't advocate for himself. Given that Larry worked in collections, he understood keenly that if the past-due bills ended up going to a collection agency, his personal credit rating could be damaged. Larry kept careful notes of conversations with the insurance company, his former employer, and his current Medicare provider. That's hugely important for getting to a faster resolution on customer service and billing issues, the article explained.

When these companies won't talk to each other, you can get stuck. Just the same, patients are better off in the complaint process if they have documentation, the article advises. Keep a calendar diary anytime a benefits, health insurance, or contractor dispute comes up: write down the name, title, and phone number of the person you speak with and the contents of the conversation. Experts say that there are all kinds of glitches that can lead people to not being properly enrolled in Medicare.

The issue has been straightened out, and Tocco has finally been removed from coverage.

"I never thought this was how I'd be spending my time" in retirement, Tocco said.

Talk with an attorney that is experienced with Medicare and senior issues.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Chicago Tribune (May 29, 2015) “Steps to take when disputing a denied health insurance claim”

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