When it comes to enrolling in Medicare, timing really matters. If you miss an enrollment period, you may lose your option to enroll in a plan, plus face hefty penalties if you want to do so at a later time.
So let’s look at what happens if you missed a deadline:
Most people became first eligible for Medicare when they turn 65, or earlier due to certain disabilities. If you or your spouse are still working, your Medicare enrollment can be delayed until the time after you stop working.
During this open enrollment period, you can also enroll in a Medigap policy (Medicare supplement plan), and insurance providers cannot deny you coverage, or place conditions on your policy, such as a waiting time because of past or present health issues.
If you missed to enroll in Medicare at first, you have another chance to do so each year during the Annual General Enrollment period for Medicare.
The General Enrollment period was created for individuals who did not enroll in Medicare Part B during their 7-month initial enrollment period, when they first became eligible. It is each year from January 1 through March 31. During this time, you may enroll into Part B, if you did not do so before, or had canceled it. Your coverage will start on July 1.
Attention: There is a penalty for each year that you missed to have Part B while you were eligible, and you will need to pay an additional 10% premium for as long as you stay enrolled.
If you decide to enroll in a supplemental plan after your initial enrollment period has ended, (with specific exceptions defined as “Medigap Protection”) you won’t have a right under Federal Law to do so. However, insurers may consider your application, but most likely will use medical underwriting.
It is well known that traditional Medicare is not going to insure all your health care needs. If you need significantly better healthcare insurance policy coverage, you need to improve it by enrolling into a Medicare advantage or Medigap plan. If you however don’t like your current Medicare advantage plan, and would like to switch to a different advantage or supplement plan, you can do so each year, between October 15 and December 7.
During the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare for Advantage Plans (Part C) and Prescription Drug Coverage Plans (Part D), you are able to join or switch a Medicare Part C or D plan. If you decide to leave your current plan, you will automatically go back to original Medicare, where you will be without any extra benefits and prescription drug coverage over traditional Medicare, unless you enroll in a different advantage, supplement, or prescription drug plan. Your choice will go into effect on January 1 of the new year.
If you don’t like your current advantage plan, you may cancel it between January 1st and February 14. This is the time period when members of Medicare Advantage Plans may dis-enroll from their current plan. However, you cannot enroll in another plan during this period! You will be back in traditional Medicare, and have to wait until the next fall open enrollment period of the following year to add extra coverage.
Visit www.medicare.gov to get detailed and current information about your Medicare eligibility and enrollment options, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or TTY 1-877-486-2048.