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States See Medicare Card Delivery Problems

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What You Need to Know

  • An NAIC staff member briefed the Senior Issues Task Force on the problems during a recent conference call meeting.
  • Applicants can download applications from the web.
  • Applicants must mail in the completed applications or drop them off at Social Security field offices.

Some new Medicare enrollees are having trouble getting Medicare cards in a timely manner.

A member of the staff of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners briefed members of the association’s Senior Issues Task Force on the problem last week, during an online meeting.

For financial professionals who help older or disabled clients with Medicare plans, the card access issue could create new opportunities to rescue those clients from Medicare hassles.

The problem appears to be due mainly to longer U.S. Postal Service delivery times, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices, and some older people’s difficulties with using the web to get and print government forms, according to a summary of the briefing posted on the task force section of the NAIC website.

The NAIC is a Kansas City, Missouri–based group for insurance regulators. The Senior Issues Task Force handles matters involving topics such as Medicare, State Health Insurance Assistance Programs and long-term care insurance. The current task force chair is Marlene Caride, the New Jersey banking and insurance commissioner.

How Medicare Applications Worked

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the federal agency that oversees Medicare, but SSA processes the applications.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, workers in the 1,230 SSA field offices helped many people who reached age 65, became disabled or suffered from severe kidney disease fill out and submit their Medicare applications.

What’s Changed

Now, according to the NAIC briefing summary, many SSA field offices are still closed.

Consumers can download Medicare applications from the web, but many are not comfortable with doing that, and those consumers get their applications by calling SSA and having SSA mail them applications.

In the past, typical applicants dropped off their applications at the SSA field offices or sent the applications in by mail.

Now, because of the SSA field office shutdowns, more applicants have to mail in the applications, and getting the applications to SSA application processors is taking longer.

“The NAIC continues to monitor the matter and is in communication with SSA and CMS,” the NAIC staff says.

Social Security Cards

SSA notes on its website that COVID-19 is affecting people applying for Social Security cards, too.

“Because we are experiencing slight delays processing mail-in SSN [Social Security number] card applications, it may take us between two and four weeks to process the application and return the evidence,” SSA says.

The Future

Reuters reported last month that SSA plans to begin a phased reopening of the SSA field offices in January 2022.

But Reuters ran that article before a big new COVID-19 delta variant surge began, and before reports of the COVID-19 omicron variant coming to the United States emerged. It’s possible that big new waves of cases could put off the office reopening effort.

Pictured: Mailboxes, which may not be serving to get would-be Medicare enrollees’ applications in to program administrators as quickly as in the past. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)


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