Medicare Deadlines: The Price of Waiting

Medicare Deadlines© iStockphoto/Thinkstock

If you fail to enroll for some Medicare plans—Part B, Part D, and Medigap—during the designated time periods, you not only pay penalties, but also have your coverage delayed. Here are the optimal sign-up times for these plans.

  • Part B
    Sign up during the three months before you turn 65 so coverage begins on your 65th birthday. Waiting to sign up in the month of your 65th birthday or the following three months will delay the start of your coverage for one to three months. You can also sign up for Part B between January 1 and March 31 of each year, but your coverage will begin in July and your monthly premiums could be 10 percent higher for every 12 months you delayed. (You won’t be penalized, though, if you sign up late because you have other health insurance through your employer or your spouse’s.)
  • Part D
    Sign up when you’re first eligible for Medicare—during the three months before your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday, or the three months after— or within 63 days of stopping another Medicare, employer, or retiree drug plan. Waiting will result in higher premiums— an extra 32 cents for every month you went without coverage.
  • Medigap
    You have a six-month open enrollment period starting the month you’re 65 or older and first enrolled in Part B. You’ve got a guaranteed right to buy any Medigap policy sold in your state during this time; after that deadline, you could be turned down or face higher premiums.

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