Initial Enrollment Period – You typically can sign up for Medicare during the 7-month period around your 65th birthday. Sign up begins 3 months prior to your birthday and ends 3 months after. If your birthday falls on the 1st of the month, your Medicare goes into effect on the 1st of the PRIOR month. Folks that have already signed up for Social Security will automatically get their Medicare cards mailed to them about 3 months prior to turning 65. PITFALL – if you have not yet signed up for Social Security benefits, you won’t get your Medicare automatically. You will need to sign up yourself by either visiting a Social Security office, calling Social Security (800-772-1213) or signing up online at www.SSA.gov. Don’t delay because if you do, you may be financially penalized with a monetary penalty!
General Enrollment Period – If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part A &/or B when first eligible to do so, you may sign up now between January 1 – March 31 each year. PITFALL – Your coverage won’t start until July 1st and you may have to pay a higher Part A &/or Part B premium due to late enrollment!
Health Insurance Marketplace – Even if you have Marketplace coverage you should enroll in Medicare when you are first eligible to do so to avoid a delay in your Medicare coverage. You need to timely terminate your Marketplace coverage. PITFALL – Once you are eligible for Medicare Part A coverage, you are no longer eligible for any Premium Tax Credits!
Health Savings Accounts – These are popular high-deductible insurance plans that allow contributions into Health Savings Accounts. Once you are eligible for Medicare Part A, you are no longer eligible to make any new contributions, whether you or your employer makes the contributions. It’s best to stop all contributions 6 months prior to Medicare. PITFALL – If contributions are made to your HSA you may have to pay a tax penalty!
Part D Prescription Drug Coverage – Enrolling in a Part D drug plan when first eligible is a good idea, even if you take no medications at all. Why? Enrolling is optional, so some people choose to turn down coverage. However, if you find you do need drug coverage down the road, when you enroll you will be assessed with a Late Enrollment Penalty, increasing your monthly premium costs. PITFALL – The Late Enrollment Penalty is permanent and increases each year!
To avoid these common Medicare pitfalls either educate yourself &/or or talk with a licensed health insurance agent to get enrollment advice.