Health Insurance Matters: Social Security

Health Insurance Matters / Harry P. Thal

Years ago, I had a tax person who had me declaring a minimal amount of my self-employed income. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, reducing my tax burden. However, it also reduces income when I retire (if I ever actually retire is another story.) Unless the saved tax money is directed to a retirement account, you may be cheating yourself. Another situation is the “mom and pop” business where all the earnings are directed to only one partner. Typically, the wife works in the business, but is a “housewife” to the IRS. Therefore, she gets no quarterly credits, and may not qualify for benefits, including Medicare on her own merits.

Whether you’re retiring soon, or you’ll be in the work force for several more years, it is important to prepare for what the future holds. That’s where Social Security comes in.

Social Security puts you in control with secure access to your information. You can get estimates based on your own earnings record to help you plan for retirement with Social Security’s Retirement Estimator2. It is a convenient, secure, and quick financial planning tool that allows you to receive the most accurate estimate of your future retirement benefits.

Many years ago, I needed to present my Social Security number to somebody. They looked up at me and said, “You must be from New York.” I am. Back then, before computers, the first digits of the Social Security number referenced the office where you applied for a card. I believe today, this is centralized with no reference to where you are from. Social Security has changed with the times.

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Social Security Communications, has stated in his April 16 blog, “For over 80 years, Social Security has changed to meet the needs of our customers. Today, our easy, secure, and convenient-to-use online services allow you to do business with us from the comfort of your preferred location. From requesting a Social Security card to filing for retirement, our online services have got you covered.
The convenience of the Social Security website begins with your registering at I have often found this site to be both beneficial in getting education about my own account, as well as seeking a duplicate card. Just the process is eye-opening. The security questions asked makes it near impossible for anybody but yourself to establish an account. It is worth establishing an account just for the experience of the security protocol.

Losing important documents is frustrating, especially something as important as your Social Security card. You’ll want to consider whether you really need to get a replacement card. Knowing your number is what’s important, after all. You’ll rarely need the card itself — perhaps only when you get a new job and have to show it to your employer. If you really must replace your card, go to before visiting your local Social Security office. Do not carry your card with you. Keep it in a safe place with your other important papers. Your Social Security number is one of the “keys” to unlocking your identity. With this number and a few other facts about you, criminals can access your private, personal information and steal from you. For this reason, Medicare is currently transitioning the Medicare ID numbers, which are Social Security based, to a random number. The new cards have just begun a mailing program. California residents should see the new Medicare cards between now and June. Once you receive your new card, you should remove the older card from your wallet. You may wish to secure it elsewhere for a while. Both cards will work until January 2020. At that time, the old numbers will no longer work for any medical claim.

Harry P. Thal, MA, is a licensed insurance broker in California (0621106) and 24 other states. His offices are in Kernville. He is a member of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors and Past-President of the Kern Association of Health Underwriters. He may be reached at 760-376-2100, e-mail or visit him on the web at

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