By Katie Seay on April 17, 2020
Social Security offices are closed due to the coronavirus emergency, and that is reportedly causing extended wait times on the phone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has long recommended enrolling online, and now it seems that is truly the most expedient method, like it or not.
The online application is fairly simple—the SSA claims it can be completed in 10 minutes—but there are a few steps you should take in advance to help make the process go as smoothly as possible.
Before getting started, make sure you have a my Social Security account. You will not be able to enroll in Medicare without one.
What is a my Social Security Account?
Your my Social Security account is like homebase for all things related to Social Security. According to the SSA, this is where you can see your earnings history, request a replacement Social Security Card, manage your personal data such as address and direct deposit information, check application status, etc.
You can create your my Social Security Account at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/.
To create an account, you will be asked a series of identity questions for verification. You may want to have certain items on hand to be prepared for additional security questions, such as, but not limited to: mobile phone (for the purpose of receiving texts and emails), credit card, W-2, and tax forms.
If you already have a my Social Security account and only need to apply for Medicare, make sure your personal information such as name and address are correct and current on your my Social Security account. When you enroll in Medicare, the SSA will attempt to confirm your identity using this data. If there are discrepancies, you risk being locked out of your account for 24 hours. If that happens, you may need to call the SSA at (800) 772-1213, request the help desk, and provide original documents to verify your identity. The agent should explain how to do so.
Also note that if you have put a freeze on your credit, you won’t be able to establish an account until you thaw your credit. The Trust Company has information about credit freezes here, and we are available to assist if needed.
So, you have a my Social Security account and all your personal data is up-to-date. What’s next?
Gather the information needed to enroll in Medicare. The SSA has a checklist available to print or download at https://www.ssa.gov/hlp/isba/10/isba-checklist.pdf.
If you’re only applying for Medicare and no other benefits, the list is pretty short and straightforward. You only need information about your date and place of birth, Medicaid number, if applicable, and current health insurance. If you have Group Health Insurance through your own job or your spouse’s job, you’ll need the start and end dates of employment with that employer, as well as the start and end dates for the Group Health Insurance provided by that employer.
Finally: Complete your enrollment!
If you are at least 64 years and 9 months old and are not enrolled in Medicare or receiving Social Security benefits, you are eligible to complete Medicare enrollment online at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/.
Online enrollment is available only during designated hours, beginning at 5:00 AM six days a week (8:00 AM on Sunday) through at least 10:00 PM every day. Social Security will process your application and contact you if they need more information.
What if there are problems?
Unfortunately, there may still be enrollment glitches even if you were well prepared.
- Watch for notifications from the SSA via email, text message, and your my Social Security and Medicare accounts. Respond promptly to any requests.
- If you must call the SSA at (800) 772-1213, get up early and be persistent. The listed hours are between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM Monday through Friday. Your best bet is to call early and secure a place in line.
- If you are unable to connect with an agent, consider sending a letter to the local Social Security office. Provide all your contact information and explain that you made repeated attempts to obtain guidance from the SSA by phone.
Now it should be evident that planning ahead is key to successful Medicare enrollment! Even though it may not be top of mind right now, consider preparing in advance by establishing a my Social Security account and keeping personal information up-to-date. As always, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals at The Trust Company are here to assist with the process. Call us at (800) 285-7878 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.