As a lawyer with a post-graduate tax degree, I am known in some circles as a tax guru. I am also frequently consulted about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security questions by other attorneys. One of the secrets to being a guru is knowing where to call to get information. Gurus cannot know everything so they have to know where to go for answers.
Social Security Administration, Medicare and the Internal Revenue Service have surprising good telephone hotlines that are available to answer citizen questions. I find that professionals can also get answers easily by calling the agency directly. Here are the numbers to call:
Social Security Administration 800-772-1213 (24/7)
IRS Individuals 800-829-1040 (M-F 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.)
IRS for Businesses 800-829-4933 (M-F 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.)
IRS for Nonprofits and Trustees 877-829-5500 (M-F 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.)
The hotline for Medicare questions is 800 MEDICAR(e), numerically 800 633 4227. Although it is difficult to speak to someone on the Medicare hotline if you are not already enrolled in Medicare, enrollment questions are generally handled through the Social Security hotline.
There is no national Medicaid hotline and it is difficult to get answers about Medicaid that go beyond basic eligibility criteria. Many Medicaid agencies will only provide answers through local office staff and there is no access to staff for persons who are not applying or already enrolled in Medicaid. Nongovernmental organizations have contracts with Medicaid to answer citizen enquiries in most states, but the quality of the information varies from state to state and from person to person. Elder law attorneys may be able to provide the most helpful answers, but finding a knowledgeable Medicaid attorney can be difficult. Start with the attorney directory on the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys website.
There are good times and bad times to call. In general, call early in the day and not on Monday or Friday. I usually call in, put the phone on speaker and wait for someone to pick up. You might have to penetrate several levels of advisors to get an answer to a difficult question, but it is cost-effective and the answer you finally get should be authoritative, if not conclusive. If you have called one of the above hotlines, please take our survey. If you have called more than once, please fill out multiple surveys.
John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
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