Ask Phil

A Curated Archive of Reader Questions

Since the initial Get What’s Yours book was published in 2015, answering reader questions has become my major day job. At first, the questions were exclusively about Social Security. Topics broadened into aging and retirement after the “Ask Phil” column began appearing on the PBS website, “Making Sen$e.” When Get What’s Yours for Medicare was published in 2016, its complexity and confusion generated still more queries. And yet a new vein of questions was mined when Get What’s Yours for Health Care appeared in early 2021.

I’ve now developed detailed and updated answers to the most often-asked questions and placed them here – an “always current” e-book with extensive links to underlying rules and research. Unlike other books, even digital ones, this book will be regularly updated so that what you read here will always reflect what’s going on now, not what some article said three years or even three months ago.

If you need additional information, I’m here to answer your questions. And if you encounter something you think is wrong, please let me know. Infallibility is not part of my job description! These are complex and ever-changing topics. Web links and program rules change. Your help is central to keeping “Ask Phil” accurate and up to date.

Medicare

Basics

2022 Medicare Premiums Post Big Increases

Making the transition from employer insurance to Medicare

Select Medicare coverage for the “future” you

Social Security’s role in Medicare

Medicare’s low-income support programs

Medicare does not require prepayment

Withholding payments for Medicare Part A and Part B

When it makes sense to decline Part A of Medicare

The benefits of Part A of Medicare

Non-working spouses and Part A of Medicare

Medicare costs for divorced spouses who never worked

Medicare Part B drug coverage

Do you need a Part D drug plan?

COBRA limitations and Medicare

Medicare and out-of-state care

Understanding Medicare’s impact on health savings accounts

When it makes sense to decline Part A of Medicare

Concierge health practices and Medicare

Outside the U.S.

Medicare coverage outside the United States

Medicare decisions for ex-pats

Ex-pats returning to U.S. for health care

Medicare enrollment for ex-pats still working

Non-U.S. group health plans meet Medicare deferral standard

Enrollment, Eligibility, Appeals

Medicare enrollment window

2022 Medicare open enrollment

Medicare Part D 2022 drug plan rules

Basics of Medicare annual open enrollment

Non-working spouses and Medicare

Appealing improper Medicare premium payments

Reversing incorrect Medicare enrollment

Use Plan Finder to shop for Medicare

Part D drug plan choices are too complicated

Part D drug coverage can change during the year

Penalties, Surcharges

Medicare late enrollment penalties

The logic behind Medicare late-enrollment penalties

Medicare drug plan late enrollment penalties

Medicare’s high-income surcharges – called IRMAA, for short

Medicare premium surcharges and tax filing status

Avoiding improper high-income Medicare surcharges

Coverage

Medicare’s “medical necessity” requirement

Make sure you understand your Medicare coverage

Medicare coverage of vision, hearing, and dental needs

Who oversees Medicare medical equipment benefits?

Medicare coverage for drug addiction

Medicare coverage of at-home care

Medicare rules for in-home care

Insuring yourself against future drug needs

Tips about using doctors who don’t accept Medicare

How to compare Part D drug prices with buying retail

Medicare rules involving kidney failure

Workplace Issues

Employee health insurance and Medicare choices at age 65

Can my employer pay my Medicare premiums?

Medicare enrollment penalties for working people turning 65

Dropping Medicare when obtaining employer health coverage

Medicare secondary coverage of high-deductible, employer health plans

Should disabled Americans drop Medicare for employer insurance?

Medicare Advantage

The difference between Medicare and Medicare Advantage

How to compare Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage

Changing Medicare Advantage plans when you move

Medicare Advantage dental benefits are modest

Medigap Supplement Policies

How Medigap works

Understanding different Medigap underwriting approaches

Medigap coverage works anywhere in the U.S.

How to pick a Medicare supplement plan (also called Medigap)

Federal Plans

Federal Health Employee Benefits (FEHB) versus Medicare

Medicare choices for vets with VA coverage who turn 65

The basics of TRICARE military insurance

Medicaid

People dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid

Medicaid eligibility lookback rules

Can selling your home affect your Medicare or Medicaid?

Lottery winnings can boost Medicare premiums

Social Security

Retirement Benefits

Social Security COLA up 5.9 percent in 2022

The consequences of taking Social Security benefits early

The impact on retirement benefits of different Social Security claiming ages

Weighing different Social Security claiming options

Changing your mind about claimed Social Security benefits

Losing Social Security benefits by waiting to claim?

Spousal Benefits

Social Security spousal benefits

How to calculate Social Security spousal benefits

How your Social Security claiming age affects spousal benefits

Survivor Benefits

Rules for Social Security survivor benefits

Social Security survivor versus retirement benefits

How to compare Social Security survivor vs. retirement benefits

Comparing Social Security survivor vs. ex-spousal benefits

Social Security survivor benefits and “deeming” rules

Social Security survivor benefits and earnings credits

Social Security household benefits often cut when a spouse dies

Divorce Benefits       

Access to Social Security divorce benefits

Social Security ex-spousal survivor benefits 

Social Security rules for ex-spousal benefits

Do I have to wait for my ex- to file for Social Security to get my benefits?

Social Security spousal benefits are hers, not his

Former spouse does not control your Social Security benefits

Additional ex-spousal benefits may be elusive

Social Security survivor benefits from a former spouse

Supplemental Security Income and Social Security divorce benefits

Social Security benefits and multiple divorces

Child, Family Benefits

Children’s Social Security benefits

Social Security family benefits

Social Security rules for family maximum benefits

Social Security child benefits for grandparents

Disability and Illness

Social Security benefit decisions and terminal illness

Social Security disability benefits for children

Marriage and disability benefits

Social Security benefits for a disabled child

Social Security disability and Medicare

Social Security survivor benefits for disabled claimants

Income Tips

Social Security earnings test

Social Security may return earnings test benefit reductions

Social Security income may affect Medicaid eligibility

Important Rules

Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision

Public pensions can reduce Social Security benefits

Social Security’s “hold harmless” rule

Social Security work credits for employment outside the U.S.

Social Security benefits based on top 35 years of work earnings

Social Security’s deemed filing rules

Only one Social Security benefit can be collected at a time

Related Topics

Aging

What does successful aging look like to you?

Research about strategies for successful aging

Combatting loneliness in our later years

Planning for frailty and future health needs

10 questions to ask before hiring an elder care attorney

Health care is moving into your home

At-home care for aging parents

Medicare’s home-care benefits are limited

Retirement

How much do I need to save for retirement?

Investment “spend-down” help is hard to find

Medicare and employer retiree health benefits

Will you still hire me when I’m 64?

Health Care

Medicare enrollment and the Affordable Care Act

Employers are helping clear the haze on health care prices

Finding health care on the open road

Why Medicare needs to be fixed before it works ‘for All’

Learn how to talk to your health insurer

How to fix U.S. health care