Monday, May 12, 2014

Medicare assistance

I learned the hard way that some Medicare assistance can save a Lyme patient thousands of dollars. Read and benefit from my error, please.
Unbeknownst to me, I had Medicare from the first day I qualified for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). Not realizing this factoid, I continued to pay my PPO (Blue Shield) premiums for another year (well, 14 months, actually). At $1,500 a month, that ran me approximately $21,000. I am fighting for reimbursement now. 
What led to this error is that I had heard somewhere that typically Medicare doesn't kick in until two years after SSDI begins. However, in my case, my attorney and I had claimed I became disabled way back in 2002, when I was diagnosed with Lyme. The SS folk didn't agree, because Lyme doesn't qualify as a disability (go figure). Instead, they did honor my diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, which was made in 2007. The two-year rule still applies. It just begins at the roll-back date of 2007 instead of the actual day of the first check.  Since I actually started getting SSDI checks in Nov of 2012, that means I qualified for Medicare in 2009 (two years after SSDI) and therefore I didn't need to keep Paying my Blue Shield premiums. I could have stopped those on the day I qualified for SSDI. If I had received a Medicare card in the mail, that might have clued me in. But I didn't. 
Anyway, the moral of the story is to consult someone who understands Medicare and SSDI if in doubt about how it works. It could save you a lot of hassle (and money). Below is an article from a health newsletter I subscribe to, from Consumer Reports. It lists some Medicare advice sources. 

Q. I am eligible for Medicare next year and am wondering if there are any resources that I can go to or use to help me know when to start the process, what my options are, deadlines for getting onto Medicare, deadlines for getting the supplemental insurance, and what to look for in supplemental insurance.—Johanna Columbro, Dayton, OH

A. Yes, lots! Your first resource should be Medicare's consumer portal,, where you can get the answers to those questions and much more. Here at Consumer Reports we've also created a Medicare information center at And for more complicated questions we, a project of the nonprofit Medicare Rights Center.

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