Tag Archives: Medicare

Turning 65: Another milestone known as Medicare

Turning 65: Another milestone known as MedicareRecently, I began the rite of passage for another milestone in my life: turning 65. (And thank you to all those muttering under your breath, “I didn’t think she was THAT old!”) Armed with advice from my high school classmates via our reunion Facebook page and our Association’s website, I sat down at my computer to enroll in Medicare.

I was surprised by how easy it was to enroll online. My application was approved by the end of the week (which I could check online by using my confirmation number) and my Medicare card arrived in the mail a week later. Along the way, I learned a thing or two:

  • Somehow the whole world has received notice that you are soon turning 65. Every insurance company you’ve heard of and those you haven’t will start sending you information and calling you about Medicare supplemental insurance plans. Military retirees, their spouses, and survivors shouldn’t need those policies because they qualify for Tricare for Life, which picks up the cost shares not paid by Medicare. But, remember—to be eligible for TRICARE for Life, you MUST sign up for Medicare Part B!
  • You want to sign up for Medicare before you turn 65. If you wait until afterwards, not only will you turn 65 anyway (it’s inevitable), but you may also need to pay a penalty. I signed up in May before my August birthday.
  • You will start using Medicare at the beginning of your birth month. So even though you are not yet technically 65, Medicare thinks you are for part of the month.
  • You will need to get a new military ID card. My ID card was expiring in June so I thought I could kill two birds with one stone. I took my new red, white, and blue Medicare card with me in June to renew my military ID card. But all they did at the ID card facility was laminate my Medicare card and renew my “old” military ID card. I have to go back in August when I’m officially on Medicare. Then I’ll get a military ID card that doesn’t expire (and hopefully has a better picture).
  • You will need to update DEERS too.
  • It took me a while to discover how I was supposed to pay for my new Medicare Part B. (You don’t pay a premium for Part A.) If you’re already receiving Social Security, they deduct it from your paycheck. Otherwise, they send you a bill.

So now I’m waiting for August. 65!!! Yikes!

What milestone have you recently experienced in your journey as a military spouse? What advice do you have to share?

Susan-EversBy Susan Evers, Volunteer Services Coordinator, West Region

One toe over the edge: the Fiscal Cliff and military families

One toe over the ledge: the Fiscal Cliff and military familiesSo we’ve managed not to topple over the cliff, but it looks like we’ll be hanging on the ledge of uncertainty for a few more months. In the wee hours of the New Year, Congress passed a compromise bill to keep the country from heading over the edge. Like any compromise, the bill didn’t please everyone, but it did fix several issues important to military families, including a one-year extension of the Medicare/TRICARE doc fix, which will help protect families’ access to health care. The compromise legislation did not include an increase to the debt ceiling and the Treasury Department estimates it will run out of ways to stay within the current ceiling by late February or early March, right about the time sequestration is now set to start.

And what of those automatic cuts to federal spending, known as sequestration? The best the Congressional leaders and the President could do was to postpone it for two months. That might sound like a good thing, but this delay also means uncertainty about what will or could be cut for military installations, schools that educate military kids, defense contractors, and all other military and community agencies that support military families.

Other provisions included in the compromise bill would:

  • Create a permanent fix for the Alternative Minimum Tax to prevent taxpayers from moving into higher tax brackets simply because of inflation—this fix was needed immediately to keep taxpayers from paying higher taxes on their 2012 income.
  • Permanently extend the Bush-era tax rates for all families earning less than $450,000.
  • Increase the tax rate on capital gains and some estates.
  • Freeze Congressional pay.
  • Extend federal unemployment benefits for one year.
  • Extend provisions in the expiring farm bill by one year. (This means milk prices won’t skyrocket, as you may have seen in the news.)

The compromise bill did not extend the lower payroll tax rate of 4.2% in effect during the past two years through economic stimulus legislation. Therefore, the payroll tax workers pay to support Social Security will immediately return to 6.2%. Workers will see this change in their first paycheck of 2013. Experts estimate that the family earning an average of $50,000 per year will pay an additional $1,000 in payroll taxes this year.

While the New Year’s Congressional action gives the government and taxpayers some breathing room, we’re not out of the woods yet. The temporary delay of the sequestration cuts will combine with other pending budget events to continue the fiscal uncertainty facing our Nation.

The Association appreciates the actions by Congress and the President to provide the fix to Medicare and TRICARE doctors. We remain concerned about the failure to address the potentially devastating sequestration cuts to both civilian and military programs that could have a negative impact on military families. While the delay in sequestration will temporarily protect some needed support services, it also continues the uncertainty, and a military community at war needs certainty that the Nation supports its service. We call on our Nation’s leaders to forge a more permanent solution that will preserve the strength of our service members and their families.

How do you feel about the outcome of the compromise bill and the negotiations surrounding it?

Joyce RaezerPosted by Joyce Raezer, Executive Director at the National Military Family Association

Here We Go Again! Cuts to Medicare/TRICARE Physician Payments Begin January 1 Unless Congress Acts

Here We Go Again! Cuts to Medicare/TRICARE Physician Payments Begin January 1 Unless Congress ActsAttention TRICARE beneficiaries! In two weeks, doctors will face a 26.5% payment cut for care they provide to Medicare and TRICARE patients. The National Military Family Association believes these impending cuts will directly affect military families’ access to timely care because physicians may decide to no longer care for their existing Medicare or TRICARE patients or accept new ones.

Getting a so-called “Doc Fix,” which would end scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates, is a recurring issue. Congress temporarily stopped the scheduled payment cuts in February 2012 as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012  (P.L. 112-96). Unfortunately, that fix is due to expire on January 1, 2013, which means that without further Congressional action the 26.5% physician payment cut will go into effect. The timing of the expiration also means the issue has been caught up in the negotiations over the pending fiscal cliff. This makes fixing it that more difficult.

By law, TRICARE reimbursement rates must follow the Medicare reimbursement rules. The law does permit TRICARE to make exceptions if necessary to ensure an adequate network of providers or to eliminate a situation of severely impaired access to care. But, the process of making those adjustments can take time and may happen only after TRICARE officials receive enough reports that military families aren’t finding the care they need.

Our research, Views from the Homefront, demonstrated the need for mental health services for military spouses and children. Our military families already experience difficulty gaining access to mental health care in many communities. We cannot afford to lose any mental health providers. After 11+ years of war, the military must be growing our access to mental health care rather than decreasing it.

We’ve been monitoring this issue and raising concerns about the impact not fixing the rates could have on military families. We encourage military families to contact Members of Congress (House and Senate) and tell them how these cuts can affect access to the health care they need. Ask Congress to implement a permanent fix.

What do you think about these potential cuts? Will your family be affected?

Joyce RaezerPosted by Joyce Raezer, Executive Director at the National Military Family Association