Applying for Medicare: Did you change your name?

Have you changed your name after a divorce or for some other reason?  That could cause some complications when you go to sign up for Medicare.

Wendy is turning 65 in September and went online to sign up for Medicare.  She put in her name and social security number and thought she was all set.  But a few days later she got a call from someone at Social Security who was reviewing her application.  Wendy was told that her current name did not match her Social Security record.  The name they had on file was her married name  – and Wendy had been divorced for over 30 years. Wendy  had officially changed back to her maiden name many years ago, but Social Security did not have that in her record.

Wendy was told to visit the local Social Security office with official documents that would show her name change and prove who she is.   How many people have paperwork from 30 years ago?  Fortunately, Wendy does!

So Wendy took her divorce papers down to the Social Security office.  She also brought a book to read because she had been told there might be a long wait to meet with a Social Security representative.  After three hours, Wendy met with a real person who reviewed her paperwork, said it was “official” and put her current name into her record.

I had never heard this kind of story before, but I have heard others. One of my clients said the first name in her Social Security record is a nickname she used when she was a teenager. There was no way to get it changed in her record, so this is what is on her Medicare card.

Another client uses a hyphenated name that includes her married name and her maiden name.  This does not match what’s on her Medicare card and she tried to get it changed – but after several tries, she gave up.

I have another client who was born in Germany 90 years ago. The birthdate in her Medicare/Social Security record is wrong, but she has never been able to get it fixed.  A few years ago, I was helping her set up mail order for her prescriptions and we ran into problems when talking to the Part D mail order department on the phone. When they asked for her birth date,  Lilo gave me her correct birth date and I passed it on to the person on the line.  I was told that didn’t match her record.  Then Lilo remembered she needed to use her incorrect birthdate… and the person on the line got confused.  Due to the confusion we had to start all over again by re-dialing the 800 number so we began with the incorrect birthdate that matched her record.

The point of this story is that your Social Security record might have incorrect information – and you won’t find that out until you apply for Medicare or your Social Security benefits.  Some wrong information can be changed, but some cannot.  So some people have to remember to use the wrong information when doing official business related to Medicare.  That makes things a little complicated, especially as people get older and more forgetful.

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