If you didn’t enroll in Original Medicare when you were first eligible, and now you’re getting ready to retire, you’re not alone. Working seniors often choose to delay enrollment in Part B, using group coverage as a primary insurer. While Medicare Part A is free for most people, Part B isn’t. If you’re over 65, and not yet enrolled, here’s some sound advice.
Enrolling in Original Medicare
Original Medicare includes Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). Typically, you can enroll in Part A anytime on or after your Initial Enrollment Period. But for Part B, late enrollment without a penalty generally requires a Special Enrollment Period.
Medicare Part A is penalty-free for most people. With no limitations on enrollment, some people join when they’re first eligible while others prefer to wait. Bottom line? You can enroll in Part A anytime without penalty.
If you didn’t enroll in Part B when you were first eligible, that’s okay, if you still have group coverage. When group benefits end, you may qualify for an 8 month Special Enrollment Period that starts the month you retire or lose group coverage, whichever comes first. During a Special Enrollment Period, you may be able to sign up for Medicare Part B without paying a penalty.
If you miss your Initial Enrollment and are not eligible for a Special Enrollment, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty. Penalties are assigned for each 12-month period of time you were eligible, but did not enroll in Part B.
If you have questions regarding special enrollment eligibility, please call for a personal consultation.
What if Your Spouse isn’t Retiring, But You Are
It’s perfectly fine to delay enrollment in Part B because you have group coverage. Now that you’re getting ready to retire, the Special Enrollment period applies to both you and your spouse, and you each have 8 months to enroll without paying a penalty.
On the other hand, if you’re spouse isn’t retiring and you will be getting group benefits from them, then you do not need to enroll in Medicare Part B now. However, Medicare does not allow COBRA and retiree benefits to trigger a Special Enrollment Period. If you are planning to take retiree coverage from a former employer, you should enroll in Part A and Part B now to avoid paying a penalty.