by Barbara Nevins Taylor
Recently a friend turned 65 and told me that she signed up for Medicare Part A but not part B. “Why should I sign up for Medicare Part B?” she asked. “I don’t need it. I’m covered by my husband’s company.” Yes, but not so fast. Her husband’s insurance can reject her claims because Medicare is her primary insurance and she should have Part B.
Medicare Part B covers among other things doctors’ visits, lab tests, surgeries, ambulances, and medical appliances like walkers. So the costs can add up.
Even though her husband’s company takes care of his insurance and theoretically covers her, she’s not working. So the system requires her to sign up for Part B around the time of her 65th birthday or face serious penalties.
Joe Baker of the Medicare Rights Center says, “If you don’t enroll in Medicare when you turn 65, the month of your 65th birthday or three months after your 65th birthday, you have two penalties.
You may find yourself uncovered by insurance. The insurance that you do have is secondary and the insurer is likely to turn down claims because Medicare should be the primary insurance.
But you can’t just jump on the Medicare bandwagon. You get stuck in limbo for awhile. A waiting period penalty prevents you from joining Medicare Part B when you want to do it.
If you don’t enroll when you are first eligible you have to wait for January or March of that calendar year and your coverage won’t begin until July 1st.
You also face a 10 percent monetary penalty for every year that you could have, or should have, signed up for Part B. So you will pay 10 percent more every year for Medicare than everyone else.
No Getting Around It
The rigid penalties were put into place to try to balance the finances of Medicare. At 65, you fall at the younger, healthier end of the spectrum and your premiums offset the costs for older sicker people.
Medicare Rights President Baker cautions, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to delay Part B enrollment. The only people who should be delaying Part B are people who are actively at work and have coverage.”