To B or not to B (with apologies to Shakespeare)
Medicare isn’t as complicated as some make it out to be, but it does have its twists and turns. This is especially true when it comes to Part B and when to sign up for it. Miss a turn and it could end up costing you.
If you are turning 65 soon, you are eligible to enroll in Parts A and B. Part A covers hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care and hospice care. If you have at least 40 quarters of employment where the Medicare tax was deducted from your paycheck, you have already paid for the Part A benefit. (You can check your eligibility for Medicare by creating a personal account at ssa.gov)
For most people, it makes sense to enroll in Part A when first eligible.
But there’s no requirement that you sign up for Part B, which covers doctor and outpatient visits. And Part B was not included in your payroll taxes. You’ll have to pay a monthly premium that is based on your income. (For 2020, the Part B premium ranges from $144.60-$491.60. Most of us will be closer to the $144.60 side of the equation.)
Enrolling in Part B when you are first eligible helps you avoid a late enrollment penalty, which amounts to 10% of your monthly premium for each 12 month period you could have had Part B. You can see how this mounts up if you wait years down the road to enroll in Part B.
Because of that monthly premium some beneficiaries and their Medicare eligible spouses, who are still covered by an employer’s group health plan, opt not to sign up for Part B when they first become eligible. Their reasoning is, why start paying for something I don’t need yet?
But maybe a year or two later things change. They decide to retire, or get laid off, and lose their group health plan. Because they have been covered by an employer plan, they are not going to face the Part B late enrollment penalty, as long as they enroll within eight months of losing their group plan.
There are couple of ways ways to enroll in Part B at this point, including a new one prompted by COVID-19.
First, you can download and complete two forms , Application for Enrollment in Part B and Request for Employment Information. (We also have both these forms available at The Medicare Connection and will be glad to help you complete them.)
The employment information is to verify that you delayed enrolling in Part B because you had group health insurance. On that form, your employer completes and signs Section B. If your employer isn’t available due to Coronavirus, you are allowed to fill it out for them and provide proof of coverage such as health insurance cards with effective dates and pay stubs showing health insurance premium deductions.
The completed forms can be mailed to your local Social Security office or faxed to 1-833-914-2016. Mail is the slowest option, so if you are on a short timeline it’s best to fax the forms.
Because of COVID-19, Social Security is accepting this form online, which simplifies things somewhat. But there is no word on how long they will be doing this.
At The Medicare Connection, our agents are ready to help you with the steps you need to take to enroll in Medicare Part B after age 65.
It’s just one of the many benefits of working with an agent to help you figure out your Medicare options. Give us a call at 937-823-6093 and talk to one of our specialists.