Medicare-related updates, corrections

News and views from Rita

To my wonderful readers, I must inform you that I may have to reboot my computer for nearly the last time, as I tell you about the inadvertent errors I made in my last column. It must have been a looong senior moment because I mistakenly used last year’s Medicare Deductible for Part B (hospitalization) which was $1,184 for 2013, and is now, $1,216 for 2014, and will probably change again in 2015, as it usually does every year.

Also you can use the Medicare Easy Pay option, by getting form SF-5510 (Authorization Agreement for a pre-authorized payment) either by calling Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or by going online to and typing “Easy Pay” in the search box. If you want to stop the process, or change your bank account or make any other changes, you must get another form SF-5510, make the changes and then submit it to Medicare Premium Collection Center at PO Box 979098, St. Louis, Mo 63197-9000. I had told you that you could call in the information, but instead you have to mail it in as they do not accept phone calls.

I have been told that you will never get a monthly statement from Medicare for your premium bill, however, the Medicare webpage states that a beneficiary not collecting Social Security usually receives a quarterly premium notice and must pay three months of the premium in advance. However if you do have to buy your Medicare Part A (hospitalization) because you have not worked long enough to be covered, or you owe Part D (drug program) related premiums, you will always get a monthly bill for the premium.

SSDI fills critical need

There are several parts of Social Security and one of them is called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Coverage of SSDI, which a worker earns through his Social Security payroll contributions, provides benefits to 8.9 million disabled American workers and 1.9 million dependent children of disabled workers. For 80 percent of disabled workers, SSDI is the primary or only source of income and it provides a drastic increase in the quality of life of recipients who might otherwise be living in poverty.

Only one-third of private sector workers has employer-provided long-term disability insurance, and only 7 percent of workers who make $12 per hour or less have such insurance, because most plans are too expensive for most workers. (These figures have been taken from the Pew Research Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation reports.)

I wish all of our congresspersons could put themselves in the place of a hardworking employee, who suddenly becomes disabled and is faced with the impossible prospect of taking care of a spouse and two children and now has no income. Then they would stop talking about the need to undermine support for the entire Social Security system.

If they really wished to support Social Security and not destroy it, there are several options. One would be to lift the earnings cap on Social Security contributions, which is the option I would choose.

Medicare spending going down?

Some good news via the Kaiser Foundation, is that new estimates suggest that Medicare spending in 2014 is expected to be more than $1,000 lower per beneficiary than when the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. By 2019 the per-beneficiary spending will be nearly $2,400 lower than projected in 2010.

Important reminders

I hope that everyone has registered to vote in the upcoming elections, as they are going to be crucial to the health and well-being of most of our population. If we do not elect to Congress people who will actually do their work, instead of the do-nothings that are running this congress and who have vowed to replace the Affordable Care Act with nothing, then you can kiss your new-found benefits goodbye.

I am still hoping to find a caring, compassionate person, whom I can teach the rudiments of helping people, who cannot help themselves. I can give you all the information that I use and I can assure you that you will be a better person when you help other people. Please think about volunteering. It is rewarding to be able to help the helpless.

Rita Hatch volunteers for the Older Persons Action Group’s Medicare Assistance program. Call her at 276-1059 in Anchorage or toll-free statewide at 1-800-478-1059. Her email addressis

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