Medicare Q & A

Am I Required to Enroll in Medicare?

“By far, this is one of the more frequent questions that I’m asked,” says Association Insurance Coordninator Cheryl Stillman. “Here’s what you should know.”

If you are eligible for Medicare at age 65, state law requires that you enroll. Your state or local health insurance must provide you with a supplement insurance plan that basically covers your medical expenses not paid by Medicare (i.e., prescription drug costs, the remaining 20% balance on a physician bill). In this way, the coverage and benefits, that you had before enrolling in Medicare, remain basically intact.

Also, remember that enrollment is not automatic at age 65, with a few very limited exceptions. Medicare requires you to sign up in a seven-month window –  3 months before the month you turn 65 and 3 months afterwards.

Please mark your calendar because failing to sign up when required is costly. Otherwise, you will be subject to a part B penalty.

That means your monthly Part B premiums, which cover doctor visits and medical supplies, jump 10% for each full 12-month period that you should have been enrolled. For example, if you don’t join until age 67, your Part B premium will be increased by 20% during your lifetime.

Members, who retired after age 65, didn’t need to worry about the Part B penalty. That’s because they are allowed to continue with their non-Medicare insurance plan until they retired. They have the same seven-month window – in their case, 3 months before the month they retired and 3 months afterwards.

“When enrolling, I advise our members to keep a paper trail,” continues Stillman. “That way, if any snafu should arise – and hopefully it doesn’t – then you have your documentation to fall back on.”