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a wedding cake made of insurance card, social security card, and marriage certificate stacked on top of each other

Updating Your Name When You Receive Medicare

Happy October everyone! Today I wanted to talk about how to change your name after marriage. I was recently married in September and I have been working on getting my name changed. It's not a particularly difficult process, but there are A LOT of steps to do it correctly, and thoroughly, and avoid any hiccups - especially if you're on any federal or state assistance. Now, there may be some differences in this process on a state-to-state basis, but marriage is a federally recognized institution so I imagine it's more or less the same process.

One last note before we get into the nitty gritty: changing your name is voluntary, so there isn't a time limit on when you need to do it, BUT once the process is started, try to get it done quickly so that there are as few complications as possible - especially regarding health insurance!

Steps to changing your name

1) File your marriage license and order certified copies of your marriage certificate

The very first step you'll want to take to kick this off is to file your marriage license application. Now, it is often the officiant's job to do this, but my husband and I opted to file ours ourselves because you can request and purchase certified copies of your license at the same time, which is the magical document you will need for the rest of this process. (Also, if your marriage license DOESN'T get filed in a timely manner, your officiant is the one who will get into trouble, so don't do your officiant dirty.) I do recommend purchasing at least two copies of your marriage certificate so you can keep one safely in your home (or wherever you keep important documents), and the other can be taken to all the various offices and places you'll need to show it off.

2) Update your social security card (which will also update Medicare benefits) and ID or license

Now, to start the process of officially changing your name, you will go to your local social security office. Don't forget to bring your fancy, new marriage certificate! I recommend calling your office ahead of time and double-checking what supporting documentation you will need. After they collect all of your information and submit the change, they will print a letter declaring that your name has been changed with social security - keep this letter until your new social security card arrives in the mail!

IF YOU'RE ON MEDICARE, they will update your Medicare info at the same time as your social security card and you will be sent a new Medicare card with your new name (more on this later.)

After your "quick" stop at the social security office, the Dept. of Licensing is next. You will need your old license or ID, and that handy little paper from the social security office (if you haven't already gotten your new social security card in the mail). After all is said and done, they will give you a piece of paper to use as a temporary license until your new one arrives via snail mail.

3) Update your doctor's offices, pharmacies, and insurance carriers

Now, here's where I goofed up. Remember when I said that I'd talk more about how they updated Medicare at the same time as your social security card? As soon as possible after you update your name through social security (and thus Medicare), call any clinics or pharmacies that you visit or use frequently and inform them of your name change. They will direct you on how to change your name in their systems so that they are not billing your insurance (eg Medicare) using your previous (maiden) name.

If the names do not match, your insurance will REJECT THE CLAIMS! I received a scary letter in the mail from my cystic fibrosis clinic saying that my claims were rejected due to an "invalid name" and that I would be billed for the balance if I didn't call them and resolve the issue.

Also, if you're being added onto a spouse's insurance, I recommend waiting until after your name is legally changed, otherwise you'll have to add yourself, then go back again and file for a name change separately. If you're being added onto a spouse's insurance because you will lose eligibility for state or federal insurance, that is another factor to consider.

In my case, getting married increased my household income to the point where I lost eligibility for my state insurance, and that put a time constraint on my process. I needed to change my name AND we needed to file all the paperwork so I could be added to his insurance before my state insurance lapsed. Luckily, once your name is changed legally (through social security), you can file employer insurance paperwork. The only official documentation I needed was the marriage certificate - no updated ID or social security card.

One last tip regarding medical stuff: before your current insurance lapses, try to order whatever refills of medications you can so you have an excess supply to get you through any appeals or processes to get special medications approved on your new insurance.

4) Financial accounts (banks, credit cards, investments, etc.)

Updating financial accounts is also very important, but less timely (at least in my case). Every financial institution will have its own process for changing your name but expect to need at least your marriage certificate and your updated ID (or your old ID and the handy temp ID the DOL gave you).

Do you have tips and tricks to make the name-change process go smoother for you? Share them!

Helpful resources:
Cystic Fibrosis and Health Insurance (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)
Medicare and CF

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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