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How to Avoid Costly Medicare Enrollment Mistakes

It is a well-known fact that Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day. This generation of adults born between 1946 and 1964 represents about 20% of the world’s population. A fact that is not as well known is the rule about “when” to enroll in Medicare and the consequences and potential penalties for those who make mistakes.

According to the Medicare Rights Center, one of the most costly mistakes related to retirement is missing Medicare Part B enrollment. Too often, a lack of knowledge can lead to a gap in coverage.

Many adults put off enrollment in Part B because they are unaware of their rights or obligations, or they are worried about premium costs. Failure to enroll in Part B during a specified period can result in:

  • Gaps in coverage
  • Lifetime penalties on premiums
  • Disruptions in getting care

There are a few important facts to remember about Part A and Part B enrollment.

  • Medicare beneficiaries can enroll at any time during their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
  • IEP includes the seven months surrounding the month of a person’s 65th birthday or the 25th month receiving Social Security Disability payments.
  • IEP includes the three months before, the month of, and the three months after the person’s birthday month or date of Medicare eligibility.
  • The date when Medicare coverage begins depends on the date the person signed up.
  • Individuals still working with coverage through an employer group health plan can wait to sign up for Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period(SEP). If the IEP or SEP is missed, the individual must wait for the General Enrollment Period (GEP). The GEP is generally January 1 to March 31 to enroll in Medicare Part B. Coverage for beneficiaries who enroll during the GEP beings in July of the same year.

There are practical ways to be prepared.

  • Be proactive and don’t expect to receive a notification about Medicare enrollment.
  • Know the rules and obligations of enrollment and when your IEP period begins and ends.
  • Talk to a trusted health advisor at least six months before turning 65 to consider all your options. Misinformation or misunderstanding from an employer, health plan or the federal government can potentially lead to gaps in coverage and penalties.
  • If you are going to enroll in Part B, enroll early in your IEP to avoid any delay in coverage.

If you are approaching 65, plan time now to sit down with a health advisor who will help you navigate the Medicare options. There is no fee to talk to a health advisor, and a simple conversation can minimize the risk of missing enrollment dates and experiencing gaps in coverage.

Source: Medicare Snapshot

Leah Callahan

Leah Callahan


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