Chris Core sig new

It is by far the most frustrating thing I have ever had to endure. I needed to sign up for Medicare Part B. Now, if you wanted to sign up for Medicare Part B, whom would you, by logic, contact? How about Medicare.gov? Makes sense, right? That’s what I thought, too.

So I looked up the number to call Medicare. After dialing I was put on hold, naturally, with annoying music and the reassurance from a robot that my call was very important to them and that they would be with me shortly. Apparently their meaning of shortly is “not as long as the Ice Age.”

Eventually a gentleman did answer the phone and he took down all of my information. He then informed me that Medicare.gov was not where one applies for Medicare Part B. That’s done through Social Security. Silly me, of course. This is the government we’re talking about.

So, back to square one. I went to SSA.gov and found the phone number. After pushing many buttons to get in the right queue, I was greeted with more annoying music and more assurances that my call was very important to them.

About 45 minutes later a woman answered. I told her I wanted to sign up for Medicare Part B. She said I needed forms 0938-1230 and 0938-0787. I asked where to get those forms. She said they would be e-mailed to me. We hung up and within a few minutes I got the forms.

One was to be filled out by me, and the other by my employer to prove that I currently have health insurance. That’s right, apparently you cannot get Medicare unless you currently have health insurance and can prove it. Why? It’s the government, that’s why.

I filled out my form, but I had to find somebody at my employer to talk to, which is a bit tricky because all the offices are closed due to the pandemic and everybody is working from home. For your sanity and mine I will cut through this part and just tell you that after spending more time on hold and talking with various people in the wrong offices, I finally got the proof of insurance on form 0938-0787.

I would like to add that all of this was being done during what is called “Open Enrollment.” This means there were several million of us all scrambling to make that magical deadline of December 7th as Joe Frazier and Joe Namath reminded us on TV night after night. (Did they really need the money that badly to make those awful commercials?)

Now armed with the proper forms, I called my local Social Security office. You know the drill: push 1 for this and 5 for that followed by annoying music and reminders of how important my call was to them. About one hour later I got a live person. I explained my situation and he told me I needed to call the St. Petersburg office. I double checked the number and told him that is what I had called. He said that if nobody in the St. Petersburg office answers in time the call gets forwarded to another site, in this case, Denver. Could he transfer me to St. Petersburg? No, sorry, you have to call them directly. (WHICH IS WHAT I JUST TRIED TO DO!)

So I started over and after several attempts finally was connected to the St. Petersburg office. Well, not exactly. It’s closed because of the pandemic so everybody is working from home. For that reason you cannot come to the office to apply in person, you must do it over the phone.

Bottom line: I think I finally was successful in signing up for Part B. So here’s some advice for you if you are approaching the time in your life where Medicare will be your health care insurer. Contact your local Social Security office but do NOT attempt to enroll during “Open Enrollment.” And be prepared to spend an enormous amount of time on hold. After a while you’ll know that annoying music by heart.

Chris Core is a former Washington, D.C. radio and television personality who now lives in Pass-a-Grille. He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding achievement in broadcast journalism.