Missed Your Optimal Enrollment Period for Medicare Part B? When to Sign Up

If you are eligible for automatic enrollment in Medicare Part A, you will start getting it the first day of the month you turn 65, or, if you are disabled and under 65, after you have been receiving disability benefits from Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months. If you are not eligible for automatic enrollment, you should sign up when you’re close to 65.  However, if you miss your initial enrollment period, there are some other times when you may be able to enroll.

Starting January 1st and running until March 31st each year, the General Enrollment Period is the next best thing.  When you sign up during the General Enrollment Period, your coverage will start on July 1st. The drawback for waiting until the General Enrollment Period, of course, is that you may be responsible for paying a late-enrollment penalty.  Unfortunately, you might need to pay the late-enrollment penalty for as long as you have the plan. 

Another time you might be able to enroll is during a Special Enrollment Period.  You may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period if your or your spouse have a group health plan based on your current work.  You can then sign up for Part B at any point during your workplace coverage or in the eight-month period that starts when the employment (or group health plan coverage) ends.  Finally, if you didn’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period because you were volunteering in a foreign country and already had health insurance for that reason, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period For International Volunteers.  Usually, when you are enrolling during a Special Enrollment Period, you won’t need to worry about a late-enrollment penalty.

While there are, then, ways for you to enroll in Medicare Part B outside of your initial enrollment period, the optimal time is, of course, when you are first eligible.

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