Two of the most famous and popular government programs in the United States are Medicare and Social Security. Both programs create a safety net for some of the most at-risk Americans — senior citizens. They each cover different essential costs that many seniors and qualifying citizens encounter in their day-to-day lives.
Even though they’re separate programs, Medicare and Social Security regularly work together to serve their beneficiaries. This cooperation influences everything from how you pay for Medicare to enrolling in it for the first time. So, how exactly do these programs work together to benefit you?
What Each Program Covers
First, let’s recall what each program was brought in to do. Social Security was created by the Social Security Act of 1935 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to combat the Great Depression. It acts as a form of economic security for Americans and as a type of national retirement and, eventually, disability pension. Several concepts had been floating around the country and internationally for some time, but Social Security made it so that, if you qualified, you’d receive a monthly payment from the government. This benefit changes in relation to inflation (the annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA) so that rising costs won’t cut down on the help Social Security can provide.
If you’re a regular reader of Medicareful Living, you’ll be pretty familiar with Medicare at this point. You’ll know that Medicare covers an assortment of inpatient and outpatient health services, including some of the most basic and commonly needed health care services. You’ll also know that you can become eligible by turning 65 or having a qualifying condition. You should also understand that Medicare was initially created in 1965, but that the roots of the program go much deeper. If you’d like to learn more about Medicare, you’re in the right place.
Medicare Enrollment and Maintenance
So, how do these programs work together? Social Security helps in the enrollment and maintenance of your Medicare coverage. One of the first ways most people will encounter this cooperation is through enrollment in Medicare. See, if you’re receiving Social Security benefits when you become eligible for Medicare, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Parts A and B only). Since you have to pay premiums for Part B, you can still choose not to enroll, though there may be a late penalty added if you choose to enroll after when you first became eligible.
The other way the Social Security Administration (SSA) helps with Medicare is by replacing lost or damaged Original Medicare cards. You can get a new card through Medicare.gov, but you can also get it through the SSA. Simply by navigating to the my Social Security website or going to your nearest SSA office, you can start the process of replacing your Medicare card. Once the request is in, you should have your new card within 30 days.
Costs of Medicare
The other most common way Medicare and Social Security interact is with the costs of Medicare. For example, if you’re enrolled in both Social Security and Medicare, you can choose to pay for your Medicare Part B premium by having it come directly out of your Social Security check each month. Not only is this convenient for many, it also allows you to be held harmless if your Part B premium would otherwise increase more than your Social Security check.
Speaking of being held harmless, that’s just one way the Social Security COLA can influence Medicare. It also factors into the Part B premium. When deciding on the next year’s Part B premium, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) account for the Social Security COLA. Depending on the COLA, CMS may raise the Part B premium to cover costs.
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By working together, Medicare and Social Security can make life much easier for those who need the help most. They can offer stability and support for the retired and disabled. While they don’t combine services too often, they reinforce each other in ways you may not have predicted.