As part of their benefits, some Medicare Advantage beneficiaries receive Medicare flex cards. These are pre-paid debit cards for qualifying expenses.
Medicare is part of the Social Security Administration (SSA), so if you need to enroll in Medicare, that’s whom you contact. But in recent months, phone lines at the SSA were experiencing major technical issues, preventing some individuals from being able to reach the SSA via telephone in a timely manner. These issues affected the SSA’s national 800 number as well as its field office general inquiry phone lines. At the same time, because of the pandemic, SSA offices had not been permitting in-person appointments until early April.
Certain beneficiaries — particularly those without Internet access — were therefore unable to reach the SSA before the end of Medicare’s annual general enrollment period, which typically closes March 31.
As a result, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced it will provide what is known as equitable relief to anyone who, due to these challenges, was unable to submit their Medicare enrollment or disenrollment requests after January 1, 2022. These individuals will now have extra time — through Friday, December 30, 2022 — to submit Medicare Part A or Part B enrollment or disenrollment requests without penalty. This relief from penalties also applies to the 2022 Initial Enrollment Period and Special Enrollment Periods.
Individuals who were eligible to be on Medicare and incurred medical care costs during this time period can request retroactive Medicare coverage going back to January 1, 2022. Note, however, that premiums must be paid as a lump sum or else can be deducted from any Social Security benefits the individual currently receives.
Contact the SSA’s national 800 number at 1-800-772-1213 for more information, or find an SSA office near you via the SSA’s online office locator.