Social Security won’t talk to insurance agents?

An insurance agent was trying to help a senior citizen who was not sure if he gets help with his drug costs or his Medicare premium. The insurance agent, sitting with the senior, called Social Security (800-772-1213) and had the senior give permission to Social Security to talk to the insurance agent about what was in his record. The insurance agent knew what questions to ask to determine if the senior gets a low income subsidy for his drug costs.

The Social Security rep asked the insurance agent, “Are you going to sign this person up for a Medicare Advantage plan?”. The agent said she might do that, so the Social Security rep said, “Well, I’m not going to talk to you because you’re just trying to enroll this person in a Medicare Advantage plan”.

The senior then told the Social Security rep to talk to the agent because she was trying to help him.

The senior was already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and wanted to change to a lower-cost plan. Most people are “locked into” their Advantage plan for the rest of 2013, but some people are allowed to change plans. These are folks who get the “Low Income Subsidy” for their drug costs (LIS).

Medicare allows people with LIS to change their Advantage plan or their Part D plan at any time during the year.

The Social Security rep said the senior should hang up and call back when the agent was not with him. The senior and the agent were shocked.

Is this a new Social Security policy? Are insurance agents officially presumed to be taking advantage of senior citizens? Is it a new rule that Social Security will not talk to an insurance agent who is sitting with a senior who is asking for help?

I only call Social Security if I’m helping someone get answers about enrolling in Medicare. I call Medicare when I need to get answers for a senior who is already covered by Medicare.¬† I know we can ask a Medicare rep if the senior’s record says he or she is enrolled in the Low Income Subsidy or the Medicare Savings Program. Sometimes a senior¬† has misplaced their Medicare card because they are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. They need their Medicare card info if they want to change to another Advantage plan, and they can ask that a new card be sent to them.

The Medicare phone system (800-623-4227) tells you how much time you will wait until you will be able to talk to a person – and the wait is usually less than five minutes (except during the Open Enrollment Period). I’ve even called Medicare on the weekend and talked with very helpful representatives.

It seems odd that a Social Security representative would not agree to a senior’s request to allow an insurance agent to assist him. Did the Social Security rep think this senior was being held captive by the insurance agent and forced to make the call? The entire incident seems very odd.



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