Penalized for Failing to Sign Up For Medicare Part B



by Barbara Nevins Taylor

When it comes to Medicare and Social Security, details count. If you don’t pay attention and sign up for Medicare Part B in the specific open enrollment period, you might find yourself penalized and paying more for Medicare for the rest of your life.

 

The rules get pretty rigid and don’t allow for much wiggle room.

Wendy Blank discovered this when she turned 65.

The insurance executive had signed up for Social Security and Medicare Part A, the portion of Medicare that covers hospitalization, skilled nursing home care and some home health care. You usually don’t pay a premium for this because you paid taxes while you were working. But Wendy didn’t sign up for Part B. “I was covered by my husband’s insurance and didn’t need it,” she said.

She was surprised when she began to receive bills in the mail that asked her to pay for Part B insurance. Part B covers doctor visits, lab tests and some preventive care. Wendy says,”I kept getting bills and disregarded them. I didn’t think it pertained to me.” She says she called Social Security and told them that someone made a mistake. And she thought that was it. But she was wrong.

Courtesy Creative Commons via Flickr
Courtesy Creative Commons via Flickr

Losing Money

A few months later, her Social Security check was significantly less than it had been. Social Security deducted the cost of Part B from her payment for the months that she was billed.

Taking Action

Here’s where Wendy did the smart thing. She realized that a telephone call would not work. She went to her local Social Security office and explained what happened. The Social Security worker put in the order to stop the Medicare Part B charges, but Wendy also wanted a refund. Like many of us, she was a little skeptical about getting results from the big bureaucracy.  She said, “I never thought that I would get reimbursed.” But she pushed.

She ultimately received a letter from the Social Security Administration that sounds pretty begrudging. It said in part, “Based on your alleged contact with Social Security…your coverage would have been terminated…had the proper form been submitted timely.  It is therefore recommended you be refunded Part B premiums.”

Wendy was delighted to learn that she would receive a refund of $1107.30 that had been deducted for three months worth of Part B premiums. “I felt a real sense of victory, ” she said.

Bottom Line

Wendy’s experience reminds us that we all need to take care and read everything when we deal with Social Security and Medicare. It’s extremely important to pay attention to the details, review everything and always open your mail immediately. If a mistake is made, don’t sit back and let it slide. You can file forms, as the Social Security Administration suggests, or you can visit your local Social Security office. If you are in the right, you are likely to get results. But like everything else, it takes time and patience.

 

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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created ConsumerMojo.com to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.