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Disabled veteran waiting for Medicare coverage

James Moore, 67, applied in January 2015

SAN ANTONIO – A disabled veteran fears traveling because of his health coverage.

James Moore, 67, says Medicare Part B will give him the security he needs if an emergency were to happen. He applied for it a year ago but still isn’t covered.

So what’s the holdup? That’s exactly what the Defenders asked the Social Security Administration after being contacted by Moore.

Moore said he applied for Medicare Part B at the San Antonio Social Security Administration office in January 2015 after learning it was necessary to enroll in TRICARE -- a supplemental insurance that is a part of the military health system. It allows active duty service members, retired service members and their families to seek care when they are away from a military hospital or clinic.

Moore was told his benefits would automatically start on July 1, 2015.

“Not being covered on the road is a big issue,” Moore said.

In mid-July last year, Moore became ill with an upper respiratory infection while visiting upstate New York. He visited an outpatient clinic where he said he learned he was not covered under Medicare Part B. His out-of-pocket expenses for care were more than $500. Afterward, he spent months contacting Social Security trying to find out why he wasn’t covered.

“I would call and call and leave messages and leave messages,” Moore said.

Fifteen minutes after a Defenders’ conversation with a Social Security representative, Moore got a call. They told him they’re still working on the issue and will likely get back to him within a week.

Moore wishes the initial Social Security employees he worked with understood military retirees’ health care benefits and needs so he would have been properly enrolled a year ago.

Information from the Social Security website provided to the Defenders states that when people first become eligible for Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) they have a seven-month period from the initial enrollment period to sign up for medical insurance (Part B).

If people don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during their initial enrollment period, they have another chance each year to sign up during a “general enrollment period” from Jan. 1 through March 31. Coverage during that period takes affect July 1. However, people who enroll late may have to pay a penalty as long as they have Part B coverage. That means their monthly premium will go up 10 percent for each 12-month period someone was eligible for Part B but didn’t sign up for it.

Individuals may also call 1-800-772-1213 or visit their local Social Security office for information about Medicare enrollment.