Mature couple with cake.Every day 10,000 people turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. Yet, many baby boomers are not aware that forgetting to sign up for Medicare within the required time period can result in a penalty. The Medicare Rights Center in New York fielded 14,000 calls through its national help line last year. Questions about Medicare Part B were the most common reason for the calls.

Medicare Part B covers outpatient medical care, such as most doctor visits. Most people who called the help line were confused about their eligibility, didn’t know how or when to apply for Medicare Part B, or had experienced one or more hurdles during the enrollment process.

In particular, the enrollment period for Medicare becomes a point of confusion for many people. You can actually sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday, and for up to three months afterward. But if you wait beyond that time period, you could end up paying more for your premiums. One helpline caller had been charged an extra $52.45 per month, or $629 extra per year, simply because he missed his enrollment period.

Part of the problem may be that people often assume that enrollment in Medicare is automatic at age 65. Yes, if you have claimed your Social Security benefits already, then you will be enrolled in both Medicare Part A (which is free) and Medicare Part B (for which you will be charged a premium).

However, if you have not already claimed your Social Security benefits, you will not be automatically enrolled in Medicare. Missing the deadline can result in a lifelong penalty of 10 percent per year, for each year that you fail to enroll.

You won’t receive a reminder to sign up for Medicare. You will have to remember to do this on your own, if you haven’t already claimed your Social Security benefits by age 65. Mark the date on your calendar, and post a reminder on your refrigerator. There’s no need to miss the deadline and pay a lifelong penalty on your Medicare Part B premiums.

This information has been provided by a Licensed Insurance Professional and is not sponsored or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any government agency. 

14482 – 2015/5/13