TUCSON, ARIZONA - I got a call yesterday from a woman told me she will turn 65 at the end of March and needs to figure out her Medicare coverage. We talked for a few minutes and I remembered to ask her a very important question. “Are you a retired teacher, or state, or county employee?” Sure enough, she is a retired teacher.
At that point I told her she probably doesn’t need my help. This is because the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) has very good Medicare-related plans. This woman seemed to be leaning towards a Medicare Advantage plan and I told her the ASRS Advantage plan is very, very good. She will pay around $100 per month for the ASRS Advantage plan, but that cost is worth it because the ASRS plan has much lower co-pays than $0 premium Medicare Advantage plans that are available to the general public.
I also told this woman that state retirees get vision and dental coverage, benefits that are not included in Medicare. I instructed her to go to the ASRS office at 7660 E Broadway (just west of Pantano) and talk to a counselor so she completely understands her Medicare choices and supplemental benefits.
Then I asked her if she had received her Medicare card. She said she had not.
Yikes! If her birthday is at the end of March, that means her Medicare begins on March 1st. I said to her, “You are not collecting Social Security yet, are you?” She said she is waiting until she turns 66 to collect Social Security so she gets the full amount due her.
Because this woman is not collecting Social Security as she turns 65, she must tell Social Security she wants her Medicare. And because March is only three weeks away, she needs to move quickly. So here’s what I told her to do.
She could enroll in Medicare online, but that might not be the quickest way to do it. I suggested she go to the local Social Security Office (3500 N Campbell Ave, just south of Prince Road). She can go without an appointment and sign up in-person for Medicare. She should bring a copy of her birth certificate and a picture id. (She could call Social Security to make an appointment, 1-800-772-1213, but the first available appointment date might be two weeks from now.)
After she has signed up for Medicare, she needs to go to the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) office at 7660 E Broadway Boulevard to enroll in the ASRS Medicare Advantage plan. But she can’t get enrolled in the ASRS Advantage plan until she is in the Medicare system.
I have spoken with several retired teachers who were not aware of their Arizona State Retirement System benefits. I guess they don’t pay attention to things they receive in the mail because they are sent a detailed book that explains their Medicare-related health insurance options. Perhaps the front page of the book needs to say, “Read this important information about your retiree health care coverage before your Medicare begins!