Medicare First Look
As foundational knowledge, there are a few things you need to know first.
Now that you’ve signed up, let’s look at some basics.
When you first join Medicare, you will be sent a membership card. It will be red, white, and blue, with your important information listed. Here’s a breakdown of the things you’ll notice on your card.
Your Medicare number is usually going to be your Social Security number. Make sure to keep your card and your number in a safe place. It might be a good idea to take a picture of it, like many people do with property serial numbers and product labels. Do not share this information with anyone, except your trusted contacts and physicians.
- You will get an additional card for programs like:
- Medicare Advantage (Part C)
- Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D)
- Medicare Supplement (Medigap)
It will be your responsibility to notify your healthcare providers about what coverage you have.
What to do if you lose your Medicare Card
If you lose your Medicare card, you can ask for a new one. Simply contact Social Security by phone or online:
- Visit the Medicare Card Replacement section of Social Security’s website, or
- Call Social Security’s hotline at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users, call 1-800-325-0778).
Social Security will mail your new card within 30 to 45 days. If you need immediate proof of coverage, contact Social Security and let them know. They will give you a way to prove coverage to your healthcare providers until your new card arrives.
Your Medicare rights
No matter which type of coverage you have, you have certain rights and responsibilities.
You have a right to:
- Be treated fairly and not experience discrimination
- Have access to doctors and hospitals
- Get emergency and urgently needed care when you need it
- Know what Medicare will and will not cover
- Appeal certain decisions about your coverage or payment
- File complaints about your care
- Have your personal information kept private
You are responsible for:
- Knowing when you must sign up or change plans
- Reading all correspondence from Medicare
- Asking about things you don’t understand
- Protecting your Medicare card and number
- Asking your doctors and other healthcare providers if they take Medicare before you accept services
- Calling Medicare if you feel a doctor, insurance agent or plan has misled you
You also have the right to choose someone to help you make decisions about your Medicare coverage, called an authorized representative.
Who is an authorized representative?
This person is only authorized to help you with Medicare — with joining a plan, quitting a plan, finding out information about your insurance, and handling claims and payments. An authorized representative cannot make decisions about your medical care.
These people are already authorized representatives:
- Your guardian
- Your durable power of attorney for healthcare (where allowed by state law)
- Your durable power of attorney
You can also sign a form to make someone else your authorized representative.
Download the form HERE.
Does a person need to be my authorized representative to help me join a plan?
It depends on what you need and if you are with your helper.
- If they are there with you: They do not need to be an authorized representative. You can start the call to Medicare or your plan. Then tell the person who answers the phone that you want someone there with you to ask the questions and get information for you. Hand the phone over to get your helper to ask the questions.
- If they are not there with you: They may need to be an authorized representative. You may be able to simply sign a letter that says the plan can give information to your helper and send it to the company. Start by asking the company if they would take that kind of letter. If not, you would need to sign an official form to make your helper your authorized representative.
Whether or not you use an authorized representative to make Medicare decisions, it’s important to protect your personal information.
How do I protect my personal information?
You want to protect your Medicare number as you would your credit card, debit card or bank account information because Medicare fraud is a common occurrence. Make sure you are there when someone is using your personal information, entering it on a website or mailing it. If you are sending in a paper application, make sure you are the only one with a copy of it. Make sure the original is sealed and ready to be mailed before you leave.
If you think someone is misusing your personal information, call:
- 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048), OR
- The Fraud Hotline of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-447-8477, OR
- The Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft hotline at 1-877-438-4338 (TTY users should call 1-866-653-4261).
What to do if you feel someone put you in the wrong plan
If you feel like you have been misled or did not understand what was happening while you were joining, you can object to having been enrolled in a specific plan. You can contact Medicare (or have someone help you) to explain the situation. The Medicare staff would decide what to do next.
What to do if the Social Security Administration contacts you?
You may have left some blanks in your application for enrollment or for the section covering extra help with the costs. The Social Security Administration may call you to ask for the missing information. They will only ask you for the information that’s missing from the application. Do not give out any other information. If you are not sure the person who is calling you is actually with the Social Security Administration, call the Social Security Administration back at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users call 1-800-325-0778), and they should be able to confirm the call was legitimate. Then you can get in touch with someone who will help you finish up your application. It’s always okay to call a company directly, initiated by you, to give our personal information. The person who called you will understand your concern. If they do not or become aggravated, that may be an indication that they are not with the company they claimed.