by Barbara Nevins Taylor
Figuring out when to enroll in Medicare may sound simple enough. But in fact, Medicare enrollment gets complicated. And if you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B when the formal schedule requires you to, it will cost you extra money every year of your life.
That’s why the Medicare Rights Center called for changes and improvements in the enrollment process. It issued a call for better notification for the 10,000 Baby Boomers who turn 65 every day, more support for employers, and a better appeals process if you make a mistake.
Many of us don’t know the rules and the consequences for failing to follow them.
For example, if you turn 65 and you or your spouse stopped working and have coverage under Cobra or another extended insurance plan, you still need to sign up for Medicare B right away. You have a seven-month window: three months before your birth month, your birth month, and three months after.
Even if you have insurance under your spouse’s plan and you are not working, you need to sign up for Part B during the open enrollment period.
Why? Medicare will penalize you, and charge you extra for Part B insurance for the rest of of your life. You also may end up without insurance until the next open enrollment period.
Because: You can only ignore the specific enrollment period if you are “actively employed” and have health insurance coverage from your employer. Medicare specifically rules out part-time employment and coverage from another insurance source.
Barry Galkin, an insurance consultant who specializes in Medicare-related issues says, “There have been cases that I’ve heard of where people who were 65 and still employed did not sign up for Part B. When they had medical issues, their insurers refused to pay anything at all because they were not signed up for Part B.”
The Medicare Rights Center suggests:
1. Start to think about Medicare six months before your 65th birthday.
2. Make an appointment to talk to someone in your local Social Security office, or an insurance broker or advisor.
3. Write down what people tell you so that you can review and make sure you understand the details.
4. Consider enrolling in Medicare Part B even if you are still working and are covered by your employer.
5. If you have an unusual situation, don’t assume the general rules apply to you. Ask a lot of questions.