Senior Resource Center

At United Bank it's our goal to become the most trusted source for information, tools and resources to assist our senior customers. We've made it our mission to provide the most accurate answers to questions about FDIC coverage, elder abuse and Social Security. And to share with you the products and services that will make banking easier and less confusing. Please take your time and navigate the following topics. If you have questions about any of the information included here, please call our Financial Services team at 251-446-6000 or toll free 800-423-7026. 

Convenience Services for Seniors

Advantage 24 Hour Bankline for Telephone Banking

For assistance by telephone 24 hours a day, please call United Bank's Advantage 24 Bankline at (251) 368-7979 or (800) 861-8752. From a touch tone phone press:

1. Checking, Money Market
2. Savings
3. CD & IRA
4. Loan
5. Transfer
7. Branch Hours & Locations
9. Order New ATM/DEBIT Card OR Report Card Lost or Stolen​

 

Advantage PrePaid Card for Seniors

The United Bank Advantage Card is a reloadable pre-paid debit card that combines the flexibility and benefits of a checking account with the convenience and security of a pre-paid card. For senior clients, its an ideal way to provide caretakers and guardians with funds to assist you without giving them full access to your accounts. It can also be used for travel to keep funds separate and safe if your card is compromised or stolen. 

With the Advantage Card, cardholders have access to the following features and benefits:

  • Have Funds Direct Deposited Onto the Card Anytime
  • No Credit Check Required – An Account for Everyone1
  • Use Anywhere MasterCard Debit Cards are Accepted
  • Pay Bills Online Anytime
  • Eliminates Check Cashing Fees and Waiting in Line
  • Get Cash from an ATM, Cash Advance at Banks and from Point of Sale Purchases2
  • Bilingual Client Support 24/7 Toll Free at 800-416-6373
  • Free Text and Email Alerts3
  • Check Balances at www.myUBadvantage.com
  • Personal Online Financial Tools Included for Budget and Account Management

1 A credit check is not required to obtain The Advantage Account, however the account may be offered as an alternative to our traditional checking services based on information obtained in a credit report as part of that account opening procedure.
2 See complete fee disclosure on the card carrier or fee product guide.
3 Standard text rates and carrier fees may apply.

 

Safe Deposit Boxes

Everyone has valuable documents that need to be protected from possible damage, loss or theft. Safe Deposit Boxes are offered in a variety of sizes to provide that piece of mind. Each authorized renter will sign a contract at the time the safe deposit box is established. Each time the safe deposit box is entered, an access card must also be signed. For your protection, bank personnel carefully monitor access to the safe deposit box area. The person attempting to gain access to the safe deposit box must be listed on the contract. Replacement of a lost safe deposit box key is $50. 

Safe Deposit Boxes are available at Atmore, Bay Minette, Flomaton, Foley, Frisco City, Lillian, Monroeville and Pace. Call for prices and availability.

 

Personal Storage Compartments

Storage Compartments (PSCs) are reliable and easy-to-access storage compartments and are only available from United Bank. Available at newer United Bank locations, PSCs allow customers to store documents and other items in a safe, convenient location away from home. PSCs feature a spacious interior that includes a felt lining to prevent damage to your belongings. An all-steel construction for durability and strength.

Access your PSC at anytime during normal business hours. You don't need a bank employee to accompany you to your PSC. No keys are required to enter your PSC - a four digit PIN number is all you'll need to lock and unlock your PSC.

Checking account approval required for ownership of a Personal Storage Compartment. The cost for a PSC is $30 every 3 months, or a reduced one-time annual fee of $100.00. Payments must be electronically debited from a United Bank checking account.

Personal Storage Compartments are available at Magnolia Springs, Jay and Milton locations.

Personal Storage Compartments are not designed to offer the same security features as a traditional Safe Deposit Box or Vault. PSCs are not FDIC Insured.

 

60+ Plus Checking

Designed for the mature customer looking for more from their daily account. 60+ Plus Checking offers a list of complimentary features including checks, online banking and bill pay.

Account Features      

  • Check Easy Debit Card with Fraud Protection Included
  • Online Banking and Online BillPay Included1
  • Dedicated Smartphone App with Mobile Check Deposit ($2 Per Deposit)1 Search “United Bank Atmore” in App Store or Google Play Store
  • Itemized Statements Included and E-Statements Available
  • No Charge at United Bank ATMs AND Rebates of Other Banks’ ATM Fees (subject to verification/approval)
  • Notary and Signature Guarantee Available
  • Unlimited Check Writing
  • Standard Wallet Checks Included ($6.25 shipping also applies)
  • Monthly Maintenance Fee of $2 Can be Avoided by Keeping a $60 Minimum Daily Balance

Click Here for United Bank's Full Deposit Account Lineup

Social Security Resources/FAQ

Most individuals who contribute to Social Security while working will depend on it to be the foundation for their retirement income. But not everyone takes the time to fully understand how Social Security works or how to maximize their benefits. That's why we've established the following facts and recommendations about Social Security.

When seniors begin contemplating their benefits, one common question that comes up is “What is the best age to start receiving retirement benefits?” The answer is that there’s no single “best age” for everyone and, ultimately, it comes down to your individual and family circumstances. We hope the following information will help you understand how Social Security can fit into your retirement decision.

About Social Security

The Social Security program was established to provide the base of financial protection for working people and their families when earnings are lost due to retirement, disability or death. In addition to workers benefits, SS benefits may be paid to the spouses and children of workers. Benefits are an earned right, and they maintain their value with automatic cost of living increases. 

How Do I Qualify?

Social Security is the largest source of income for people age 65 and older. To qualify for benefits, you must be fully insured, meaning you have earned the required amount of SS credits. For most people, that equates to 40 credits or 10 or more years of work. While the way to earn credits has changed over time, in 2016 one credit was recorded for each $1,260 you earn in a year. 

How Are My Benefits Calculated?

Benefits are accumulated by paying SS and Medicare taxes and having those taxes matched by your employer. Your retirement benefit is not based on the amount of tax you paid, but determined by your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). This number is based on your lifetime earnings history and then "indexed" to account for average wage changes since the year they were received. 

If you were born after 1929, your AIME is based on your highest 35 years of indexed earnings. (If you have not worked a total of 35 years, some of your years included in the index may be 0) Using your AIME, SS calculates your primary insurance amount (PIA). 

Your actual SS benefit can be different from your PIA. If you take benefits prior to your full retirement age, your benefit will be reduced. If you take benefits after retirement age, your benefit will be greater. 

What If I Have Not Worked or Am Not Working?

If you have never worked or have not worked enough to earn SS retirement benefits, you may be eligible for spousal or survivor benefits. 

When Does Eligibility Begin?

The age you retire will affect your benefit. Full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which a person may first become entitled to full or unreduced retirement benefits. For those born 1943 through 1954, FRA will be age 66. For those born after 1954, FRA will be greater than age 66. You can begin taking benefits at age 62, but your benfits will be significantly reduced. 

When to Start Benefits?

It's important to consider when to begin benefits, since the decision will impact how much you can collect in benefits during your lifetime. Depending on your health and life expectancy, you may choose to delay benefits. Obviously, if you are in poor health, starting at an earlier age may make more sense. 

After FRA, you can earn up to 8% annually (2/3 of 1% monthly) if you wait to claim SS benefits. These deferred retirement credits can significantly increase the monthly benefit that you (and possibly your surviving spouse) receive for life once you claim your benefits. 

Are My Benefits Taxable?

Social Security benefits are taxed based on your combined income. Your combined income is defined as the sum of the adjusted gross income, plus nontaxable interest, plus one half of SS benefits. Depending on your combined income, either 0%, up to 50% or up to 85% of your benefits received could be subject to federal income tax. 

Can I Continue to Work?

If you work AND collect SS benefits prior to FRA, your benefits may be reduced based on earnings. Your spouse's earnings are not included in the earnings test. Any SS income given up in early retirement because of working will result in a positive adjustment to your monthly benefit at FRA.

How Secure Should You Be About Social Security? 

Each year, the Social Security Administration makes available a statement that provides you with an estimate of the monthly benefits for which you'll qualify when you begin drawing on Social Security. (You can see yours online at ssa.gov/mystatement). But no matter how reassuring the numbers look on paper, questions are increasing as to whether these estimates will remain valid. Simply put, it's a math problem - and it is predicted to only get worse if left unanswered. 

Questions About FDIC Coverage

How Do I Know My Funds Are Completely FDIC Insured?

As you consider the changing rate environment and plan for retirement, you may be wondering about FDIC insurance coverage with an eye on spreading deposits across multiple banks. But before you spend time and effort moving funds around, you should confirm your coverages with your current bank so you don't waste time. The FDIC provides excellent coverage-related resources on its website. One of the most helpful is the Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE)

You should know, FDIC insurance covers all types of deposits dollar-for-dollar at an insured bank including:

  • Checking Accounts
  • Negotiable Order of Withdrawal (NOW) Accounts
  • Savings Accounts
  • Money Market Accounts
  • CDs

FDIC insurance covers your account including principal and any accrued interest. 

The FDIC does NOT insure money invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, life insurance policies, annuities or municipal securities, even if these investments are purchased at an insured bank. 

How Much Does the FDIC Insure? 

The standard insurance amount is $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category. These ownership categories can allow you to bank at one insured institution while maximizing your FDIC coverage. 

Ownership Categories Include:

  • A Single Account can be an account established by an agent or custodian for one person, a business account for a sole proprietorship, or an account representing a deceased person's funds. All single accounts owned by the same person at the same bank are added together and insured up to $250,000.
  • Retirement Accounts include self-directed retirements such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), self-directed defined contribution plans such as a 401k or profit-sharing plan, and self-directed Keogh plan accounts or Section 457 deferred compensation plans. All retirement accounts in this category owned by the same person at the same bank are added together and insured up to $250,000.
  • Joint Accounts must be owned by living people with equal rights to make withdrawals and who have signed the signature card. Each co-owner's shares of every joint account at the same insured bank are added together and insured up to $250,000.
  • Revocable Trust Accounts owned by the same person are added together and the owner is insured up to $250,000 per beneficiary named. Beneficiaries - people, charities, or non-profit organizations - must either be named in bank records or identified in trust documents for the coverage to count for the owner. 
  • For Business Accounts, a corporation, partnership, or unincorporated association must be separately organized under state law and operate primarily for some purpose other than to increase deposit insurance coverage. All deposits owned by a corporation, partnership, or unincorporated association at the same bank are added together and insured up to $250,000, separately from the personal accounts of the owners or members. 

If you would like to speak to someone about your FDIC coverage, contact your local branch or call 800-423-7026. We have officers ready to help guide you through the coverage calculator and answer any questions. 

 

 

Identifying Elder Abuse

Financial abuse can be a devastating form of elder abuse. Each year senior citizens are swindled out of more than $2 billion in funds because of others taking advantage of them. If you're concerned about an older friend or relative, here are some things to consider.

If You Are a Caretaker or Guardian and Suspect Abuse

To spot financial abuse, look for sudden changes in the older person’s financial situation, such as:

  • Suspicious changes in wills or powers of attorney: Out of the blue, your grandfather wills all of his belongings to his new nurse.
  • Financial activity the person couldn’t have done herself: You discover repeated ATM withdrawals from your bedridden mother’s bank account.
  • Bills not being paid: When visiting a neighbor, you see mail piling up on his desk. Maybe his caregiver is using his money for something other than paying bills.
  • Significant withdrawals or unusual purchases: You notice charges for fancy electronics on your thrifty aunt’s credit card bill.

If you think you see elder abuse, report it. If there’s immediate physical danger, call 911. Otherwise, contact Adult Protective Services (APS). Your long-term care ombudsman may be able to help too, if the older person lives in a nursing home or assisted living. And if the financial abuse involves a scam, tell the FTC


If You Believe You Are or You Have Been the Victim of Elder Abuse

Often, older adults are in the best position to recognize and prevent elder abuse and scams. That’s why the FTC’s Pass It On gives older adults tools to start conversations about scams and pass on their knowledge. You can also ask yourself if you think you fit into one of the common categories for abuse. They are:

  • Pushover Partner: Your spouse, partner or best friend runs up household bills or otherwise hurts your good credit. The person also somehow finagles you into buying the things he or she (and not you) wants.

  • Freeloader's Favorite: You're the parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend of someone who enriches himself at your expense. He'll often make you feel guilty by reiterating a hard-luck tale about facing foreclosure, being downsized or going through a divorce.

  • Human ATM: You have family members or friends who consistently dip into your wallet, like the cousin who frequently "borrows" money and then conveniently "forgets" to repay you. Or, the nephew who calls you up to bail him out of trouble when the rent is due and the lights are about to be disconnected.

Remember to exercise your right to SAY NO when someone asks for any form of financial support. It's your money, and you have the final say over it. No matter your family circumstances or personal situation, you never have to tolerate being financially pressured by anyone - especially those closest to you. 

For more resources about elder abuse prevention, check out the federal government’s Eldercare Locator.

 
 

Scams Targeted at Seniors

Protect Yourself From Scammers

Financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered “the crime of the 21st century.” Why? Because seniors are thought to have a significant amount of money sitting in their accounts. Financial scams also often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute, so they’re considered a “low-risk” crime. However, they’re devastating to many older adults and can leave them in a very vulnerable position with little time to recoup their losses.

It’s not just wealthy seniors who are targeted. Low-income older adults are also at risk of financial abuse. And it’s not always strangers who perpetrate these crimes. Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others.

Review our list below from the National Council on Aging so you can identify a potential scam.
 

Medicare & Health Insurance Scams

Every U.S. citizen or permanent resident over age 65 qualifies for Medicare, so there is rarely any need for a scam artist to research what private health insurance company older people have in order to scam them out of some money. In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money. 

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Most commonly, counterfeit drug scams operate on the Internet, where seniors increasingly go to find better prices on specialized medications. This scam is growing in popularity—since 2000, the FDA has investigated an average of 20 such cases per year, up from five a year in the 1990s. The danger is that besides paying money for something that will not help a person’s medical condition, victims may purchase unsafe substances that can inflict even more harm. This scam can be as hard on the body as it is on the wallet.

Funeral & Cemetery Scams

The FBI warns about two types of funeral and cemetery fraud perpetrated on seniors. In one approach, scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them, scammers will try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts. Another tactic of disreputable funeral homes is to capitalize on family members’ unfamiliarity with the considerable cost of funeral services to add unnecessary charges to the bill. In one common scam of this type, funeral directors will insist that a casket, usually one of the most expensive parts of funeral services, is necessary even when performing a direct cremation, which can be accomplished with a cardboard casket rather than an expensive display or burial casket.

Fraudulent Anti-aging Products

In a society bombarded with images of the young and beautiful, it’s not surprising that some older people feel the need to conceal their age in order to participate more fully in social circles and the workplace. After all, 60 is the new 40, right?

It is in this spirit that many older Americans seek out new treatments and medications to maintain a youthful appearance, putting them at risk of scammers. Whether it’s fake Botox like the one in Arizona that netted its distributors (who were convicted and jailed in 2006) $1.5 million in barely a year, or completely bogus homeopathic remedies that do absolutely nothing, there is money in the anti-aging business. Botox scams are particularly unsettling, as renegade labs creating versions of the real thing may still be working with the root ingredient, botulism neurotoxin, which is one of the most toxic substances known to science. A bad batch can have health consequences far beyond wrinkles or drooping neck muscles.

Telemarketing/Phone Scams

Perhaps the most common scheme is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who as a group make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average. While the image of the lonely senior citizen with nobody to talk to may have something to do with this, it is far more likely that older people are more familiar with shopping over the phone, and therefore might not be fully aware of the risk. With no face-to-face interaction, and no paper trail, these scams are incredibly hard to trace. Also, once a successful deal has been made, the buyer’s name is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets, sometimes defrauding the same person repeatedly.

Examples of telemarketing fraud include:

  • The Pigeon Drop: The con artist tells the individual that he/she has found a large sum of money and is willing to split it if the person will make a “good faith” payment by withdrawing funds from his/her bank account. Often, a second con artist is involved, posing as a lawyer, banker, or some other trustworthy stranger.

  • The Fake Accident Ploy​: The con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that the person’s child or another relative is in the hospital and needs the money.

  • Charity Scams​: Money is solicited for fake charities. This often occurs after natural disasters.

Internet Fraud

While using the Internet is a great skill at any age, the slower speed of adoption among some older people makes them easier targets for automated Internet scams that are ubiquitous on the web and email programs. Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a substantial cost) or an actual virus that will open up whatever information is on the user’s computer to scammers. Their unfamiliarity with the less visible aspects of browsing the web (firewalls and built-in virus protection, for example) make seniors especially susceptible to such traps. One example includes:

Email/Phishing Scams

  • A senior receives email messages that appear to be from a legitimate company or institution, asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information. A senior receives emails that appear to be from the IRS about a tax refund.

Investment Schemes

Because many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings once they finish working, a number of investment schemes have been targeted at seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years. From pyramid schemes like Bernie Madoff’s (which counted a number of senior citizens among its victims) to fables of a Nigerian prince looking for a partner to claim inheritance money to complex financial products that many economists don’t even understand, investment schemes have long been a successful way to take advantage of older people.

Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage Scams

Scammers like to take advantage of the fact that many people above a certain age own their homes, a valuable asset that increases the potential dollar value of a certain scam. A particularly elaborate property tax scam in San Diego saw fraudsters sending personalized letters to different properties apparently on behalf of the County Assessor’s Office. The letter, made to look official but displaying only public information, would identify the property’s assessed value and offer the homeowner, for a fee of course, to arrange for a reassessment of the property’s value and therefore the tax burden associated with it.

Closely related, the reverse mortgage scam has mushroomed in recent years. With legitimate reverse mortgages increasing in frequency more than 1,300% between 1999 and 2008, scammers are taking advantage of this new popularity. As opposed to official refinancing schemes, however, unsecured reverse mortgages can lead property owners to lose their homes when the perpetrators offer money or a free house somewhere else in exchange for the title to the property.

Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams

This simple scam is one that many are familiar with, and it capitalizes on the notion that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Here, scammers inform their mark that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes of some kind and need to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Often, seniors will be sent a check that they can deposit in their bank account, knowing that while it shows up in their account immediately, it will take a few days before the (fake) check is rejected. During that time, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize, which they pocket while the victim has the “prize money” removed from his or her account as soon as the check bounces.

The Grandparent Scam

The grandparent scam is so simple and so devious because it uses one of older adults’ most reliable assets, their hearts.

Scammers will place a call to an older person and when the mark picks up, they will say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer has established a fake identity without having done a lick of background research. Once “in,” the fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which don’t always require identification to collect. At the same time, the scam artist will beg the grandparent “please don’t tell my parents, they would kill me.”

How Can I Identify A Scam?

There are several warning signs that can point to a possible scam. Those include:

  • Immediate Action Required: If they require an immediate answer, they probably don't want you to have time to think about it.

  • Insistence on Secrecy: If you can't share it with others, there may be something wrong.

  • Money Needed Up Front: Be cautious when paying for services or goods that have not been received yet.

Be Proactive

Do what you can to protect yourself by being proactive and learning about potential scams.

  • Limit Unsolicited Phone Calls by Signing Up for the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov

  • Register with www.DMAchoice.org to Limit Junk Mail

  • Use Anti-Virus Software to Protect Your Computer

  • Be Cautious About Clicking on Email Links

  • Limit Personal Information Online or on Social Media

  • Be Suspicious of Any Situation that Requires You to Send Money Up Front

  • Assume that Insistence on Secrecy is a Ploy to Deceive

  • Confirm ALL Stories, Offers or Charities Independently

  • Choose the Privacy Settings on Social Media Accounts

  • Monitor Your Accounts for Unusual Activity or Give Someone You Trust Access to Review Your Account Activity
     

If You Are A Scam Victim

Report the scam by contacting someone you trust, reporting it to your bank and the authorities. Don't be embarrassed or afraid. You can contact us directly at 800-423-7026 or you may contact your local account officer. 

 

Facts About Medicare

What is Medicare?

Medicare is the federal government program that provides health care coverage (health insurance) if you are:

- 65 or older
- under 65 and receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a certain time
- under 65 and have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is the federal agency that runs Medicare. This program is in part funded through premiums that people with Medicare pay, and in part funded through the federal budget.

 

What Does Medicare Cover (Parts A, B , C, and D)?

Different parts of Medicare cover different services. You may hear about four parts of Medicare: Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D.

Original Medicare is administered directly by the federal government, is the way most people get Medicare, and had two parts:

  1. Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers most medically necessary hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health and hospice care. It is free if you have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least 40 calendar quarters (10 years); you will pay a monthly premium if you have worked and paid taxes for less time.
  2. Part B (Medical Insurance) covers most medically necessary doctors' services, preventive care, durable medical equipment, hospital outpatient services, laboratory test, x-rays, mental health care, and some home health and ambulance services. You pay a monthly premium for this coverage.

Medicare Part D (outpatient Prescription Drug Insurance) is the part of Medicare that provides outpatient prescription drug coverage. Part D is provided only through private insurance companies that have contracts with the government-it is never provided directly by the government (like Original Medicare is).

Medicare Part C is not a separate benefit. Part C is the part of Medicare policy that allows private health insurance companies to provide Medicare benefits. These Medicare private health plans, such as HMOs and PPOs, are known as Medicare Advantage Plans. If you want, you can choose to get you Medicare coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan instead of through Original Medicare.

Medicare Advantage Plans must offer at least the same benefits as Original Medicare (those covered under Parts A and B) but can do so with different rules, cost and coverage restrictions. You can also typically get Part D as part of your Medical Advantage benefits package. Many different kinds of Medical Advantage Plans are available. You may pay a monthly premium for this coverage, in addition to your Part B premium.

It is important to understand your Medicare coverage choices and to pick your coverage carefully. How you choose to get your benefits and who you get them from can affect your out-of-pocket costs and where you can get your care. For instance, in Original Medicare, you are covered to go to all doctors and hospitals in the country. Medicare Advantage Plans have network restrictions, meaning that you will likely be more limited in your access to doctors and hospitals. However, Medicare Advantage Plans can also provide additional benefits that Original Medicare does not cover, such as routine vision or dental care.

 

How Do I Enroll?

Most Americans become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. What you need to do to get Medicare depends on whether you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits.
 

  • If you are 65 and receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B.

You do not need to contact anyone. You will receive a package in the mail three months before your 65th birthday with your new Medicare card and a letter explaining how Medicare works and that you have been automatically signed up for both Part A and Part B. If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits, your package and card will come from Social Security. If you get Railroad Retirement benefits, your package and card will come from the Railroad Retirement Board.

  • If you are 65, but not receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will need to actively enroll in Medicare. To actively enroll, contact your local Social Security office or your local Railroad Retirement Board field office. You may not be collecting Social Security retirement benefits if you are still working or if you were born in 1938 or later (the retirement age is higher for people born after 1938).

The letter will also explain that your monthly Part B premium will be automatically deducted from your Social Security check or Railroad Retirement check beginning the month your coverage begins.

Do not turn down Part B unless you have employer insurance from you or your spouse's current job. If you do not have employer insurance and you turn down Part B, you may have to pay a hefty premium penalty when you do sign up.

 

How Do I Enroll in Medicare if I Missed my Initial Enrollment Period?

Did you have employer insurance through a current job or your spouse's job at the time you became eligible for Medicare?

If yes:

  • You may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period, which means you can enroll in Medicare without penalty at any time while you have group health coverage and for eight months after you lose your group health coverage or you ( or your spouse) stop working, whichever comes first.  

If no:

  • You can apply for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period, between January 1 and March 31 of each year. Your coverage will start the following July and you will have to pay a Part B premium penalty.     

        

How Do I Receive Medicare if I'm Under 65 and Disabled?

If you become eligible for Medicare because of a disability, and have been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for 24 months or Railroad disability annuity checks, you will be automatically enrolled in both Part A and Part B.

You do not need to contact anyone. You will receive a package in the mail three month before your coverage starts with your new Medicare card and a letter explaining how Medicare works and that you have been automatically signed up for bot Part A and Part B. If you are receiving SSI, your package will come from Social Security. If you get railroad disability annuity checks, your package will come from the Railroad Retirement Board.

The letter will also explain that your monthly Part B premium will be automatically deducted from your Social Security check or railroad retirement check beginning the month your coverage begins.

Do not turn down Part B unless you have employer insurance from you or your spouse's current job. If you do not have employer insurance and you turn down Part B, you may have to pay a hefty premium penalty when you do sign up.

 

Should I Enroll in Medicare Part D?

If you have no drug coverage, or have drug coverage that is not as good as Medicare's, the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit may help you. Even if you do not take prescription drugs, it is important to enroll in Part D so that if you later need to access prescription drugs you do not have to face late enrollment penalties or delays in enrolling.

 

How Do I Fill in the Gaps in my Medicare Coverage?

There are a number of ways to get coverage to fill gaps in Medicare or to get assistance with Medicare costs:

 

  • Employer Insurance: If you or your spouse is still working, and you have insurance through that job, it will work with Medicare to cover your health care costs. You should know whether your employer insurance is primary or secondary to Medicare. Primary insurance is health insurance that pays first on a claim for medical and hospital care. Secondary insurance pays after primary insurance.

  • Retiree Insurance​: Some employers provide health insurance to retirees and their spouses to fill in the gaps of Medicare coverage. Retiree insurance always pays secondary to Medicare.

  • Veteran's Administration Benefits​: If you are a veteran and qualify for VA health benefits, health care and prescription drugs that you get through the VA may be the cheapest. The VA may also cover certain health care that Medicare will not cover for you. VA benefits do not work with Medicare and if you receive care outside of a VA facility you might need Medicare. Medicare does not pay for any care at a VA facility.

  • Supplemental Insurance (Medigap): Insurance that you can buy from a private insurance company to fill in the gaps in Original Medicare coverage by paying for your medical deductibles, coinsurances and copayments. Depending on where you live, you have up to 10 different Medigap plans to choose from. Each offers a different set of benefits. Premiums vary, depending on the plan you choose and the company you buy it from.

  • Stand-alone Medicare Private Drug Plan (Part D): If you have Original Medicare and want Medicare drug coverage, you need to sign up for a private plan that offers drug coverage (PDP). All Medicare drug plans have different costs and a different list of drugs that they cover. Make sure the plan you choose covers the drugs you need at a cost you can afford.

  • Medicare Advantage Plan: These plans contract with the government to provide Medicare benefits. They must provide at least the same set of benefits offered by Original Medicare, but may have different rules, costs and restrictions.

If you have a limited income, you may be able to get assistance through certain programs:

  • Medicaid: If you have a low monthly income and assets, you may be eligible for coverage from Medicaid to pay Medicare costs and for health care not covered by Medicare, such as transportation to medical appointments.
  • Medicare Savings Program: If you do not qualify for Medicaid but still have problems paying for health care, you may qualify for government programs that help pay your Medicare costs. All Medicare Savings Programs pay the Medicare Part B premium and the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program covers deductibles and coinsurance as well.

What is the Donut Hole?

You may be paying more for your drugs because you have fallen into the donut hole, also called the coverage gap. The coverage gap is when the amount you pay for your prescriptions suddenly increases. In the past, most people had to pay the full cost of their drugs in coverage gap. Due to health reform, you no longer have to pay the full cost of your drugs during this period.

How Does the Donut Hole Work?

The coverage gap starts when your total drug costs-including what you and your plan have paid in drugs-reaches a certain amount since the start of the calendar year. In 2016, this amount is generally $3,310.

When you reach this amount, you hit the coverage gap. As a result of health reform, you get discounts to help you pay for your drugs during the coverage gap. In 2016, there is a 55 percent manufacturer's discount on most brand-name drugs. This means you pay 45 percent for brand-name drugs listed on your Part D plan's formulary, and the manufacturer plus the federal government pay 55 percent. For generic drugs, the government provides a 42 percent discount in 2016. You pay the remaining 58 percent of cost.

These discounts will gradually increase each year until 2020. Starting in 2020, you will typically pay no more than 25 percent of the cost of your drug at any point during the year after you have met your deductible.

How Do I Get Out of the Donut Hole?

You get out of the coverage gap in 2016 when you have paid $4,850 out-of-pocket for covered drugs since the start of the year. When you reach this out-of-pocket, you get catastrophic coverage. The costs that help you reach catastrophic coverage include what you spent on drugs while in the donut hole. The cost that help you reach catastrophic coverage also includes most of the discount on brand-name drugs that you received in the coverage gap. This includes drug costs paid for you by family members, most charities, State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs and Indian Health Service.

You continue to pay your drug plan's monthly premium during the gap, but the premium does not count toward the $4,850 out-of-pocket. The amount your drug plan paid for your drugs in your initial coverage period also does not count.

When you reach catastrophic coverage, you pay either a 5 percent coinsurance for covered drugs or a copay of $2.95 for covered generic drugs and $7.40 for covered brand-name drugs, whichever is greater.

Your Medicare drug plan should keep track of how much money you have spent out-of-pocket on your covered prescription drugs and which covered period you are in. This information should be printed on your monthly statements.

 

How Do I Replace my Medicare Card if it is Lost, Stolen or Damaged?

If your red, white and blue Original Medicare card has been lost or stolen, or you can no longer use it because it is too faded or damaged, you can replace it by calling the National Social Security Hotline at 800-772-1213. You can also apply for a new card online or go to your local Social Security office.

To get a new card, you will need to provide your

  • name as it appears on your most recent Social Security card
  • Social Security number
  • date of birth

If you get Medicare health or drug benefits from a Medicare Advantage Plan such as an HMO, PPO or a PDP, you need to call your plan to get your plan card replaced. If you get Medicare through the Railroad Retirement Board, call the Railroad Retirement Board Help Line at 877-772-5772 to order a replacement Medicare card.

You should get your new card in the mail within 30 days.

To avoid complications, keep your important insurance cards in a safe place, make photocopies, and write down the numbers sot that you have a record for future reference if you lose any of them.

If your Medicare card has been lost or stolen, watch out for Medicare fraud. Check your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) for services you did not receive, if you spot any, call the Inspector General's fraud hotline at 800-447-8477 to report them.

 

 

 

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