A freeze on your credit report? You will be excluded from online health insurance registration

Melinda Caughill

Time to enroll in Medicare? Social Security says, “Use our online application to register for health insurance. It takes less than 10 minutes.

It’s true if (and that’s a big IF) you have a “my social security account.

Previously, you could go to the Social Security website to enroll in Medicare only. You just answered a few questions and you were done in about 10 minutes. But now there is a new twist. Before you get to the registration questions, you need to log in to your “my social security account. If you don’t have one, you need to establish one, and that’s where you can run into trouble.

Those who have frozen their credit report (and many, many have) won’t be able to pass Go. According to Social Security, you ‘can’t create a ‘my Social Security account online if you have a security freeze, fraud alert, or both on your credit report. Indeed, Social Security uses an external identity service provider, Equifax, to verify the identity and protect the personal information of customers online. (Ironically, it was an Equifax hack that caused so many of us to freeze credit in the first place.)

So what should you do if you have a freeze on your credit report?

If you wish to register online and need to establish a “my social security account,” ask Equifax to lift the freeze. If you call Equifax, it can be done in an hour. The credit bureaus have three days to comply with a written request. But then, who knows how long it will take for the “thaw” to work its way through the social security system.

If you are concerned about having enough time to complete your registration, visit your local Social Security office. Take documents to confirm your age, identity and citizenship. Generally, a driver’s license and passport will suffice. If you do not have these specific documents, Social Security may accept other documents. You may have to wait in line (maybe hours) but hopefully you will be able to create an account.

For those of you who are not close to the Medicare enrollment deadline, consider establishing your “my social security account now. You will be able to receive personalized estimates of future benefits, view your latest statement and view your income history. And then, when you’re ready to enroll in Medicare, you won’t be left behind.

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