As you approach age 65, you might be planning for retirement. You may still be working and wondering if you’ll ever get to retire. Or, you might simply be enjoying life! Wherever you are on life’s journey, one thing you don’t want to miss is the sign-up deadline for Medicare.
When you’re first eligible for Medicare, you have a seven-month initial enrollment period to sign up for Part A and/or Part B. It begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65.
If you don’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B (for which you must pay premiums) when you are first eligible, and you aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period between Jan. 1 and March 31 each year. If you sign up during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage will start July 1.
Usually, you don’t have to pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) coverage if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working. This is sometimes called “premium-free Part A.”
However, if you don’t qualify for premium-free Part A, you will have to pay a monthly premium for Part A coverage. And if you don’t buy it when you’re first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. This higher premium must be paid for twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn’t sign up. So if you were eligible for Part A for two years but didn’t sign up, you would have to pay the higher premium for four years.
Most people pay a standard premium each month for Medicare Part B (medical insurance) coverage. You want to make sure you enroll as soon as you’re eligible. Otherwise, you may face a higher premium for late enrollment in Part B. This is the penalty that can really cost you. For every 12-month period you could have had Part B but don’t sign up, you get 10% added to the cost of your premium. So if you wait three years, your Part B premium will be 30% higher than normal. And this penalty lasts for as long as you have Medicare Part B.
As you can see, it pays to watch the deadline for your initial enrollment period. If you have questions about Medicare and how it works, contact your local health insurance agent or visit the official Medicare website.
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