Failure to enroll in Medicare on time can cost you thousands in extra Medicare premium penalties during the course of your retirement. Medicare’s exhausting perplexity raises the chance of costly deadline errors for seniors at or close to age 65, the Medicare eligibility age. When should you enroll?
Initial Medicare Enrollment Period: The initial enrollment period runs 7 months. It starts three months BEFORE you turn age 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months AFTER you turn 65. You can sign up for Medicare Parts A, B and D.
Tip 1: If you or your spouse is still working, and you have health insurance through that employer or union, you need to contact your benefits administrator to find out how your coverage works with Medicare. You might be able to delay enrolling in Parts A, B, and D without penalty, but you need to check, because not all employer health insurance qualifies, particularly if the employer is a small business. To avoid penalties, you must have “current employer coverage.”
Tip 2: Don’t forget your drug coverage, even if you don’t use many prescriptions. To avoid Part D penalties when you delay enrollment, you must maintain “creditable coverage” through your employer plan or you will need to go ahead and enroll in Part D. Otherwise the penalties for late Part D enrollment can start to accrue.
If you lose your job or retire, COBRA and retiree health benefits DON’T count towards delayed enrollment coverage. Once employment ends, or if your employer drops health insurance benefits (whichever happens first) then you would need to take timely action.
Special Enrollment Period: If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part A and/or B when you were first eligible because you’re covered under a group health plan based on current employment, you can sign up during the 8-month period that begins the month after the employment ends or the group health plan insurance that’s based on current employment ends, whichever happens first.
General Enrollment Period: If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part A and/or B when you were first eligible, you can sign up between January 1–March 31 each year. Your coverage becomes effective July 1.
Fall Open Enrollment Period: Fall is the time you can join, switch, or make other changes to Medicare Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage Part C plans. Between October 15 through December 7 is your time to make changes.
For more information: Visit the Medicare website at www. medicare.gov, or call toll free at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633- 4227). Read more in your copy of the Medicare & You 2012 handbook, CMS Product No. 10050.