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According to the Social Security Administration, a “processing error” that occurred in January of this year means that some Medicare beneficiaries’ requests to pay their premiums through a deduction from their Social Security did not go through. As a result, those premiums have not been paid, which means at least a quarter of a million seniors may receive bills for the past five months of unpaid premiums.

Some patients must dig up the money to pay the plans while others might receive cancellation notices, leaving them without coverage. Around 250,000 people have been affected, according to Medicare officials.

Who is Affected by the Social Security Processing Error?

If a patient enrolled in coverage starting January 1, 2019 for Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan, and if they requested to have their premiums taken out of their Social Security check, they could be affected.

Many patients failed to notice that their checks did NOT include a deduction for drug plan or Medicare Advantage premiums. They might have assumed that if their checks were a little more than expected, then that extra amount could’ve been general cost-of-living increases.

Insurance Companies’ Role

Insurers are required to send the bills directly to members for any unpaid premiums. Patients can set up payment plans if they can’t pay the entire amount, and insurers must allow their members at least two months from the billing date to pay.

Medicare and Social Security have not disclosed how the error occurred, the names of the plans that were shortchanged, or the amount the plans are owed. One such health insurance company, Humana, blames Medicare’s 15-year-old IT system for the error and urged them to invest in new systems. Mark Mathis, a spokesman for Humana, said about 33,000 of their members were affected, which was fewer than 1% of its total Medicare membership. Fortunately, none of those members lost coverage. Other companies affected include UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, and more.

What Should a Patient Do if They Receive a Bill From Their Insurance?

There is a concern that many people— those who opted to have their premiums paid automatically in the first place— may receive a bill and think it’s a scam. To avoid any lapse in coverage, a patient should contact their insurance or Medicare plan directly with any questions, concerns, or to begin making payments.

Medicare and Social Security said they expect proper deductions and payments to insurers will resume this month or the next.

Information gathered from Social Security Error Jeopardizes Medicare Coverage For 250,000 Seniors.