Mailing the check has its uncertainty. In spite of calling the Medicare Hot Line a few times and waiting the not-too-long but still long period of time, I’m still not sure why the amount was what it was…higher than I expected.
There is the issue that I’m paying their top dollar because they’re using 2013 as my base income year and that was not only my last year of full-time employment, but also the year I sold a condo that I’d owned in Virginia for 25 years, making my annual income – or in Medicare speak my MAGI (modified adjusted gross income) -- the highest single year in my lifetime. If you added my next highest three years, I probably wouldn't have hit that amount.
I spoke on the phone to the local Social Security Office about that and they had someone call me to discuss an appeal if I’d had, again in Medicare talk, a “life-changing event.” I didn’t come across a burning bush that told me something that changed my life, but I did retire which meant my income went from a decent amount to…nothing. That is a life-changing event, even in Medicare speak.
So I filed the appeal and in a pretty efficient 10 days I received a letter telling me they “cannot make a new decision in (my) case because the (MAGI) did not change enough to make a difference.” This in spite of me submitting the requested letter from my former employer saying I’d retired a year ago. I still don’t understand how I could go from a decent income to nothing, and not qualify or have that be a “life-changing event”. I mean, trust me, seeing money going out and nothing coming in is not only life-changing, it's scary.
Seems no income is as low as one can go (I’m not yet collecting Social Security). They did list the potential reasons for changing my income which included retiring, for which I’d already sent a letter saying, as I said above, I did retire. But, I still was rejected. So, when I called about that, the nice woman in the call center in Pennsylvania, made it clear she could not affect the decision but could send me a form by which I could appeal my appeal. So, I’m now awaiting that form to fill out.
Meantime the first payment was due.
So I paid the stated amount, which actually was even more than even than in their pricing even for those who make the most allowed. So I called the call center and I think she said the number was for three months. I still don’t understand because the amount due was for more than a month’s fee, but certainly not enough for three. Maybe it was prorated, I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll be calling the 800 number again, and I’ll ask, again.
I will say the waiting time to speak to a human being wasn’t too horrible and the first time, after I’d held about 20 minutes, a polite digital voice told me that if I wanted to cease waiting and get a call back, I’d get one within the hour. I submitted my request for the call back and assumed I’d never get one but about an hour later, I did get that call! So, that worked well even though Medicare, as the nice digital recording told me, services 50 million people thus a wait should be expected.
I put the check for the too-high amount in the mail figuring maybe at some point they will refund some money once my appeal works. Or a burning bush crosses my path, whichever comes first.