Medicare offers seniors, and other qualified candidates, nice health protection at an affordable price. While it’s a great tool to give seniors access to health care, there is a lot of confusion around the government program and it’s enrollment dates. It’s vital that you time your enrollment correctly, otherwise you could end up with a lack of health care coverage or even massive penalties that put a financial strain on your budget.
When it comes to timing your enrollment in Medicare Part A and B, when you actually do so can be extremely important for a number of reasons. First, there can be a big difference between enrolling in Medicare because you are retired or enrolling when you continue to work beyond age 65. There can also be a difference between being eligible at age 65 or becoming eligible before age 65 due to a qualifying disability.
There are other factors that can make when, as well as how, you go about enrolling in Medicare different as well. For instance, there are many individuals who live outside the boarders of the United States who are still eligible for this program. Any and all of these factors can and will have a bearing on how a person should go about proceeding with their Medicare enrollment – and, missing certain deadlines can have a major impact on the ongoing premium that you will pay, in some cases, well into the future.
Enrolling in Medicare When You Are Initially Eligible
For most people, your Initial Enrollment Period is the first time that you will be able to enroll in Medicare. This period lasts for seven months; starting 3 months before you become medicare eligible. the month you turn 65, and the three months after that.
In order to avoid any type of late penalty, it is best to enroll in Medicare Part B during this period of time. Typically, having paid FICA taxes into the system, you will have automatically been enrolled in Medicare Part A when you turned age 65. However, you may not have been automatically enrolled in Part A, this time period is also a good time to enroll in this part of Medicare as well.
Today, however, there are more and more people who are working well past the age of 65. This is due in large part to longer life expectancy, as well as people needing to “boost” their retirement savings. This creates several unique challenges for enrolling in Medicare.
If you opt to work past age 65, it could be a good idea to postpone your Part B enrollment. In this case, if you are covered by health insurance through your employer (or through your spouse’s employer), then you will not be liable for a Part B penalty – provided that you follow certain rules when the time comes for you to sign up in the future.
Those who are in this situation will also have the opportunity to choose whether they wish to continue to remain on their employer’s insurance, or to drop coverage with their employer (or their spouse’s employer) and obtain their coverage through Medicare – even if they remain employed. You may also opt to be covered by both.
For those who are covered by both a group health insurance plan and Medicare, the group insurance plan will be considered as the primary insurer – unless the employer has fewer than 20 employees. Primary means that your employer’s plan will pay your medical bills first, and then Medicare will pay only the remainder – if any – of the costs.
Enrolling in Medicare If You Are Disabled
Those who have a qualifying disability may be able to enroll in Medicare prior to turning 65. When you enroll in Medicare in this situation, your Initial Enrollment Period will also last for seven months, however, the fourth month – the month in which your benefits actually become effective – is usually the month in which you receive your 25th disability payment from Social Security.
In most cases, your enrollment in Medicare will occur automatically. This is because, since you are already receiving Social Security disability payments, the Administration is already aware of both your situation and the time frame.
Enrolling If You Live Outside of the U.S.
When it comes to enrollment in Medicare, residing outside of the United States can make it somewhat tricky. This is because you are typically not able to use any services outside of the U.S. Yet, for those who live abroad and plan to return, there are two primary options if you want to eventually be covered by Medicare in the future.
These options include either signing up for Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period and paying premiums for services that you cannot yet use, or waiting to enroll until you return to the U.S. and then facing late penalties. But you should know what your options are so that you can make an informed decision regarding both your premiums and your benefits for now and in the future.
Missing your Enrollment Date – The Penalties
As you can see, there are several different circumstances and situations that can impact when you enroll in Medicare. Regardless of when you enroll, it’s vital that you don’t miss your enrollment period. As we mentioned early, if you fail to enroll, you could be facing some steep penalties that will be tacked onto your Part B premiums. For every 12 months that you SHOULD be enrolled into the program, but you aren’t, you’ll have a 10% penalty on your Part B premiums for as long as you hold Medicare coverage. That 10% can quickly add up to thousands of dollars throughout the course of your life.
Medigap Enrollment Timing
Also take note of the Medigap Enrollment Period. It is the six-month window in which insurance companies can’t deny you applications for a Medicare Supplemental insurance policy, such as Medigap Plan F, the most expensive yet plan with most coverage. Know that you hold the advantage during this period because you cannot be denied any medigap plan due to health concerns and you also won’t be charged a higher rate because of any health issues.
For a lot of Medicare enrollees, this could be the only chance to be accepted for supplemental insurance. If you want additional coverage that isn’t provided by original Medicare, these Medigap policies are perfect for that.
There are ten different Medicare Supplement Plans to pick from, and they each provide different coverage levels. These policies are a great way to offset the rising cost of health care that can quickly put a financial strain on your budget. Contact us today for a quote!