Most people getting close to retirement know that Medicare coverage starts when you turn 65. But that’s not the whole story. If you want to enroll in Medicare without hassles and costly penalties, you need to know exactly when to sign up for the program you want. There are different enrollment periods, so it’s trickier than you might think.
…it’s trickier than you might think.
Not everyone needs to sign up at age 65. You may still be covered by your employer’s health care plan, for example, or if you are eligible for Medicare due to a disability, you can actually sign up earlier.
Initial Enrollment Window
Medicare has established a seven-month Initial Enrollment Period, which includes the three months before you turn 65, your birthday month, and the three months afterward. This window applies to all forms of Medicare—Part A (hospital), Part B (doctor and outpatient), Part C (Medicare Advantage), and Part D (prescription drugs).
Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Enrollment
There is a separate six-month open enrollment period for Medicare Supplement policies (also called Medigap), which begins when you’ve turned 65 and are enrolled in Part B. During this period, insurers must sell you any Medigap policy they offer, and they can’t charge you more because of your age or health condition. This guaranteed enrollment period may be crucial because if you miss this window and try to buy a Medigap policy later, insurers may not be obligated to sell you a policy and may be able to charge you more money.
If you missed enrolling in Part A or B during the Initial Enrollment Period, there is also a General Enrollment Period from January 1 through March 31 each year. Waiting until this period could, however, trigger lifetime premium surcharges for late Part B enrollment, which can end up costing you thousands of dollars more. Also your coverage won’t begin until July!
Part D drug coverage may not be something you need when you first retire. But if you don’t sign up for it when you are first eligible, and later decide you want it, you will face potentially premium penalties (surcharges). For example, if you missed enrolling during your initial enrollment period and then bought a policy, a premium surcharge would later take effect if you were without Part D coverage for 63 days. And this surcharge is added to your premium for the rest of the time you have a Part D plan.
Special Enrollment Periods
There are lots of special conditions that can expand your penalty-free options for when you sign up for Medicare. And there also are what’s called Special Enrollment Periods for people who’ve moved, lost their employer group coverage or face other special circumstances. These special periods may have enrollment windows that differ in length from the standard ones.
If you would like to talk to me or schedule a meeting at your home or a nearby meeting place, you can reach me at 207-370-0143 or use my simple form on the CONTACT ME page of this site to send an email message. The best part about working with me is that it will not cost you anything to meet with me to discuss your options or to review the plans that are available. I am paid by the insurance companies in the form of a commission if you enroll in a plan. You will not pay any more than anyone else and you are under no obligation whatsoever to enroll in any plans if you meet with me.
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