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Don’t Miss this Important Deadline!

Filed under: Retirement

Smiling senior couple using laptop at home

You probably already know that you need to enroll in Medicare when you turn 65. After all, most retirees count on the program to pay for their medical expenses. But were you aware that failing to sign up for Medicare within the required time period can result in a penalty?

According to the Medicare Rights Center in New York, which received 14,000 calls through its help line in 2014, many people still do not understand how Medicare Part B works. In fact, questions about Medicare Part B were the most frequent ones asked by callers. You might think of Medicare as your main health insurance plan after age 65, because it covers most outpatient care such as doctor visits.

Most of these callers were unsure of their eligibility for Medicare Part B, didn’t know how to apply for the program, didn’t know when to apply, or had experienced significant difficulties during the application process.

The most common point of confusion is the enrollment period for Medicare Part B. This period begins three months before your 65th birthday and extends for three months afterward. However, what most people don’t know is that missing the initial enrollment period could result in a penalty. Those who miss the deadline will be charged more per month for the rest of their lives. One helpline caller was distressed to learn that his tardiness had cost him an extra $629 per year.

Medicare penalties are a common problem, probably because many people assume that enrollment is automatic at age 65. It is true that enrollment in Medicare Part A and Part B will be automatic if you have claimed your Social Security benefits. Medicare Part A is free, and you are charged a premium for Part B.

But what if you have not claimed your Social Security benefits at age 65? You will not be automatically enrolled in Medicare, and you must pay careful attention to the deadline. If you miss your enrollment period, you could be charged a 10 percent penalty for each year that you fail to enroll.

If you have not already claimed your Social Security benefits at age 65, then you will need to remember Medicare on your own. Mark the date on your calendar and start the application process early, so that you won’t forget this important deadline.