Tip #1: Avoid Late Enrollment Penalties
Of course, everyone wants to avoid late fees—the question is, how? The best way to do this is to simply not enroll late. The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) takes place during the 7 months surrounding your 65th birthday—during this time, you can enroll in Part A, B, C (Advantage), D, and/or Medigap (supplements) without any penalties.
But, if you do miss your IEP, you still may still be able to avoid late fees. The Special Enrollment Period (SEP) can be used at any time to enroll in Medicare for those eligible. You can use a SEP if you have received Social Security Disability benefits for 24 months, have ESRD or ALS, have a chronic condition, are enrolled in Medicaid, are retiring, or have certain outstanding circumstances that change your Medicare coverage.
Tip #2: Know Your Enrollment Periods
Besides the IEP and SEP, there are two other potential options—the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) and the General Enrollment Period (GEP). The AEP is less of a time to enroll in Medicare for the very first time, but more of an opportunity to make changes to your current coverage, including:
- Signing up for a Medicare prescription drug plan.
- Dropping a Medicare prescription drug plan.
- Joining a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage.
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan that does (and vice versa).
The AEP takes place from October 15th to December 7th, while the GEP takes place from January 1st to March 31st. Unlike the AEP, you can enroll in any eligible Medicare plan for the first time—you may, however, face late penalties.
Tip #3: Check for Automatic Medicare Enrollment
For Original Medicare (Parts A and B), you may be enrolled automatically. More than likely, as is the case with most Medicare beneficiaries, you will receive a letter in the mail sometime around your 65th birthday, informing you of your enrollment.
You will be automatically enrolled if:
- You receive retirement benefits: (either Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board Benefits)
- You receive disability benefits (for at least 24 months)
- You have ESRD or ASL
You are not required, however, to go through with this enrollment if you decide you do not want it. Simply follow the instructions on the packet sent in the mail, or contact the Social Security office.
You may, for instance, choose to delay enrollment if you are still working. Be sure to speak with your group health plan, however, before doing so, as there are likely more benefits to accepting this enrollment than denying it.