Almost 65? Medicare Isn’t Automatic; Here’s Why

If you’re nearing age 65, there’s something you need to know:  unless you’re currently receiving Social Security benefits (having filed early), you need to take action to make sure you receive your Medicare benefits in a timely fashion.

Timing

What this means is that you need to sign up for Medicare three months prior to your 65th birthday – and if you’ve forgotten, you need to sign up within the period from three months before until four months after your 65th birthday.  By signing up during that seven month period, your coverage will begin during the first of the month in which you turn 65, and you’ll begin being billed for Medicare Part B.

If you fail to sign up during that seven month window, you’ll have to wait until the next general enrollment period, which is January 1 through March 31, and your benefits won’t begin until the following July 1 – plus you may be assessed a 10% penalty on your Part B premium for each year that you’ve delayed signup.

Exception

If you happen to still be employed and are receiving your medical coverage at least as good as Medicare, you’re not required to enroll and won’t be penalized for delaying.  After your employment ends (and thereby the medical coverage), you have a special eight month enrollment period when you can sign up for Part B without penalty.

If you sign up while still covered by the employer plan or in the first month after the coverage ends, your benefits will begin on the first day of the month that you enroll.  If you enroll at any time after that but during the following seven months remaining in the special enrollment period, your coverage will begin on the first of the following month.

Just like the other enrollment period, if you delay until after it has expired you’ll need to wait until the next general enrollment period to enroll and your coverage won’t begin until July.

About the author

Jim Blankenship, CFP®, EA

Jim Blankenship is the founder and principal of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd., a financial planning firm providing hourly, as-needed financial planning and advice. A financial services professional for over 25 years, Jim is a CFP professional and has earned the Enrolled Agent designation, a designation that qualifies him as enrolled to practice before the IRS. Jim is also a NAPFA-registered financial advisor, which designates him as a Fee-Only Financial Advisor.

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