These are some of the major Medicare mistakes and ways to avoid them. Are you making any of these mistakes?
- Not checking thoroughly whether you qualify for Part A, B or D. You must be at least 65 years old but do not need work credits to qualify for Part B or Part D. There may be a way of qualifying for Part A through a spouse’s work record.
- Missing the enrollment period. There is a critical enrollment period, typically the month you turn 65 or the three months before or after your birth month. Some exceptions may occur relating to health coverage beyond age 65 due to employment, but watch out for penalties for not signing up at the proper enrollment time.
- Part B is optional but has a required period of time to sign up. COBRA coverage doesn’t allow you to delay Part B enrollment when you are no longer actively working. You will have no coverage if you fail to sign up for Part B when required.
- Not signing up at age 65. Note: Age 65 and not full retirement age is the time to sign up for Medicare. To avoid late penalties, you must sign up at age 65 unless you have health coverage from your job or from your spouse’s place of employment. The time for collecting Social Security benefits is not the same as the time to enroll in Medicare.
- Delaying to sign up for Part D just because you currently do not need it. Part D provides coverage when you need it, but doesn’t allow you to wait to sign up until the need becomes urgent. Delaying may cause late penalties permanently added to your Part D premiums unless Medicare considers your creditable drug coverage from elsewhere to be at least as good as Part D. You can pick a low premium plan to get coverage at the least cost.
- Not educating yourself on enrollment periods. Open enrollment is not the only time to sign up for Medicare; that is only the time to change coverage for those already in the program. Your enrollment period, if new to Medicare, is age 65 or is dictated by employment.
- Picking the wrong Part D for yourself. Compare coverage and costs for your drugs by using the plan finder program on medicare.gov or by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.
- Being too late to buy medigap with full protections. The six-month window that you are given after enrolling in Part B is a one-time opportunity. You must buy it at the right time and you must be 65 to do so.
- Failing to read your Annual Notice of Change. Changes in costs and coverage for the following year can be compared with other plans, permitting you to switch to a different plan during open enrollment, October 15th through December 7th.
- Not realizing that you may qualify for help to lower your costs. Many people with limited income can check out both a state program and a federal one to get help with Part B premiums and/or low-cost Part D prescription drug coverage. Contact your state health insurance assistance program (SHIP) for free counseling on Medicare issues. Go to shiptacenter.org (https://www.shiptacenter.org and select your state. Other helpful sites are: gov or Medicare at 800-633-4227; AARP Health Newsletter; http://www.aarp.org
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