Why it is important to sign up for Medicare as soon as possible

When you reach 65, you don’t have to hang up your hat in the workplace, but you do become eligible for Medicare. Signing up for Medicare Part A is beneficial for almost all seniors, and many may be automatically enrolled. With no premium and no deductible, Part A is a good move for most. However, if you are not automatically enrolled, it is important to get healthcare coverage as soon as you are eligible. Signing up right away will eliminate the risk of paying higher prices and ensure that you are not in danger of healthcare coverage gaps that could leave you on the hook to pay for your doctor visits and services without help. With the high cost of many healthcare services, sign up right away and avoid unnecessarily paying more .

Initial enrollment period
You will become eligible to enroll in Medicare at the age of 65. The initial enrollment period for Original Medicare, which includes Parts A and B, starts three months before the month of your 65th birthday and continues through the birthday month and a period of three months after. It is best to sign up for Medicare if you are not automatically enrolled. Seniors who are already taking Social Security will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare and should receive a healthcare card in the mail.

General enrollment
If you miss your initial enrollment period, you can sign up for Medicare during general enrollment, but may be subject to higher prices as a result. The general enrollment period runs from Jan. 1 through March 31 every year. Coverage will begin July 1 for those who sign up during the general enrollment period.

Late penalty
When you sign up for Medicare later, you may be subject to a late enrollment fee. For most seniors, this means a higher premium for Medicare Part B when you do sign up. This higher rate is typically permanent and will not be reduced over time.

To avoid paying a higher premium, you should enroll in Medicare as soon as you become eligible. Medicare offers subsidized healthcare that is critical to senior wellness, and signing up early will allow you to take advantage of the benefits sooner.

Special circumstances
There are some cases when you will not be subject to a penalty for late enrollment if you decide to defer signing up when you first reach Medicare eligibility. For example, if you defer enrollment because you are still covered under an employer’s insurance, you will not have to pay a higher premium rate later on. If you qualify for special enrollment, the period will run for eight months after employment ends or benefits are terminated, whichever occurs first. Those who are foreign service volunteers will also qualify for the special enrollment period. When switching from an employer’s coverage to Medicare, be sure to enroll within the Special Enrollment Period, or risk paying more for healthcare. Even if you are still covered by your employer or your spouse’s employer, it is still important to enroll in at least Medicare Part A to avoid coverage gaps.

Medicare Advantage Plans and prescription drug plans
You may also sign up for Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plans at certain times each year. Because these are supplemental insurance plans, there is no late penalty for enrollment. The open enrollment period to sign up for additional healthcare coverage runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. During this time, you may switch from Original Medicare to an Advantage plan or add prescription drug coverage, which has its own premium. You can also make changes to a prescription drug plan during this period.

To maximize your Senior Health Insurance benefits, visit MySeniorHealthPlan.com for quick, simple and easy information.

Pete Blasi