Medicare can be quite complicated to understand sometimes. Overlooking or not understanding the many different plan options and coverage rules can lead to costly and sometimes permanent mistakes. When it comes to Medicare, you need to know when it is time to enroll, your window to apply for a plan, and the consequences for not doing so. Problems such as late enrollment penalties and excess charges are all things that can occur if you fail to learn how Medicare works before enrolling in it. If you want to learn more about excess charges, visit boomerbenefits.com/part-b-excess-charges.
So, let’s look at some of the reasons why it pays to learn about Medicare.
Knowing when to apply
You only have specific windows to apply for Medicare. Learning which one you will use can help you avoid mistakes or confusion! Since most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65, you are given a 7-month window to apply for Medicare, known as your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This period begins three months before your 65th birthday month and ends three months after.
Since a lot of seniors are continuing to work past 65, many choose to delay Medicare and keep their creditable employer coverage until they get ready to retire. If you enroll in Medicare past 65, you will receive an 8-month Special Enrollment Period to apply for Medicare without penalty.
Late enrollment penalties
Creditable coverage is the one thing standing in the way between you and a late-enrollment penalty. If you are covered by active employer insurance, and the employer has 20+ employees, you can delay Medicare without penalty. Once you get ready to retire or lose that active employer coverage, you will need to submit forms to provide proof of having creditable coverage while you choose to delay Medicare.
You want to do your best to avoid a Medicare penalty because these penalties continue to grow the longer you take to enroll. You must pay a permanent penalty for the entire time you are enrolled in Medicare.
General Enrollment Period
You don’t want to miss your Medicare enrollment window because you could end up with a late-enrollment penalty and have to wait longer to get coverage. Many people don’t realize that you can’t apply for Medicare any time you want. If you miss your window, you must wait until the General Enrollment Period to apply for Medicare. This period begins on January 1 and ends on March 31. So, if your window to apply ended in September, you would have to wait until January to apply for Medicare.
Supplemental plan mistakes
If you can avoid those crucial mistakes for Original Medicare, don’t think you don’t have to worry about anything else. Many Medicare beneficiaries enroll in either a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan to help with cost-sharing since Medicare does not fully cover the cost of healthcare services. So, with more coverage options comes more information you need to know so you can ensure you enroll in the plan most suitable for you.
When you first enroll in Medicare Part B, you get a one-time, six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period, where you can apply for a Medigap plan with no health questions asked. Once you are outside this window, you will likely become subject to health underwriting in most states.
Pre-existing conditions can make it difficult or impossible to enroll in a Medigap plan or change Medigap carriers once you are outside that 6-month window. Whether you choose to use this window is solely up to you, but you want to be at least aware of it as an option.
Medicare Advantage mistakes
With Advantage plans, if you enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can apply for an Advantage plan during that 7-month window. If you enroll in Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period, you have a 2-month window to apply for a plan. If you miss your window, you must wait until the Annual Election Period (October 15-December 7) before applying for a Medicare Advantage plan.
Medicare Advantage plans have become known for offering added benefits to their plans. An important note to remember is that any additional benefits a carrier chooses to provide are not required or guaranteed every year. The benefits and coverage of Medicare Advantage plans vary by location and carrier. You never want to enroll in a plan solely because of the extra benefits they offer, such as a gym membership. Making this critical decision without verifying if the plan covers medical services or providers can cost you money and leave you stuck in a plan that you either can’t afford or doesn’t suit your healthcare needs.
Take the time to learn
Understanding the individual details that apply to your Medicare enrollment and options can help save you time and money. Learning about Medicare after an irreversible mistake is not how you want things to play out.
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