Beware Late Medicare Enrollment
Updated: Apr 1, 2019
A recent article in the New York Times written by Mark Miller provides a useful reminder about the window within which seniors must enroll in Medicare at age 65.
As the article explains, there is limited period of time before and after a person's 65th birthday during which the individual may enroll in Medicare. A person who fails to timely enroll will face stiff financial penalties for late enrollment and possible gaps in coverage.
Confusion often arises because an exception exists for those still employed and covered by an employer-provided group plan at age 65. The article highlights that this exception can be easily misunderstood. An individual featured in the article now faces penalties because, when he turned 65, he was employed. Soon thereafter, though, he was laid off and signed up for COBRA. Because he had COBRA, he did not think he needed to transition to Medicare. COBRA coverage, however, does not qualify for the exemption from the general rule, and he is now paying (literally) for this misunderstanding.
The article also mentions another exception that causes confusion: "If you work for a company with 20 or fewer employees, Medicare becomes the primary payer, so sign up when you turn 65." Failing to timely transition from an Affordable Care Act marketplace ("Obamacare") plan can cause similar issues.
Given the importance of Medicare to seniors, special care must be taken to ensure a person's retirement is not adversely affected by the payment of penalties that could have been avoided with proper planning.
More information on Medicare enrollment can be found on Medicare's official website.