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Avoid gaps in coverage; Enroll in Medicare Part B now

Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Moore County residents who are eligible for Medicare, but who have not yet enrolled in Medicare Part B, should do so before March 31, when the General Enrollment Period (GEP) ends. Part B of Medicare covers a range of services, including doctor visits and outpatient therapy. Those who enroll during the GEP will have coverage effective July 1, 2012.

“If you have not enrolled in Medicare and you are eligible, now is the time to sign up,” said Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center.

“We frequently hear from callers on our help line who did not enroll in Part B when they first became eligible. Because some people can be confused about the rules for coordinating Medicare and employer or retiree health insurance, knowing when to enroll can be difficult. If a beneficiary does not enroll at the right time, they may find themselves exposed to a gap in coverage and once they do gain coverage, they may be subject to a lifetime premium penalty.”

To help those new to Medicare understand how different insurance works with Medicare and how and when to enroll, Medicare Rights Center and AgeOptions recently released a toolkit How Medicare Works With Employer-Based Insurance: A Guide for Employers, Professionals and Consumers.

Most Medicare consumers enroll in Part B during their Initial Enrollment Period, the seven-month period surrounding their 65th birthday.

Some people have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll in Medicare after the Initial Enrollment Period has passed. You may be eligible for an SEP if you or your spouse had group health coverage through a current employer at the time you became eligible for Medicare. In such cases, you can typically enroll in Medicare without penalty at any time while you still have group health coverage from a current employer, and for eight months after you lose your group health coverage or you or your spouse stop working, whichever comes first.

If your Initial Enrollment Period has passed and you do not qualify for an SEP, you need to enroll in Medicare during the GEP. You must do so before March 31, because you will not have another chance to enroll until January 1, 2013, for coverage effective July 1, 2013.

Consumers who missed their chance to enroll and were misinformed by a government official about enrollment rules may be able to enroll retroactively in Part B without incurring a late enrollment penalty. However, this process, called “equitable relief,” can be difficult to complete.

To enroll in Medicare, contact your local Social Security office. You can also apply online.

www.socialsecurity.gov