What happens if I don’t sign up for Medicare in time?

October 22nd, 2020

Medicare’s Open Enrollment period, which begins October 15 and ends December 7, is your chance to join or modify your plan. This gives you 54 days to make those changes. But of course, life doesn’t always go as planned. So what happens if you turn 65 outside of the enrollment period or miss your window? Fret not: We have the answers you need.

What if I become eligible for Medicare outside of the Open Enrollment period?

If you (like many others) turn 65 during a month that isn’t October, November, or December, worry not. When you turn 65, you’ll get a special enrollment period that begins three months before your birthday month. It will last the duration of your birthday month plus three months after, for a total of seven months. 

What happens if I don’t enroll during that time OR during Open Enrollment?

If you miss your special enrollment period or are already 65 but miss Open Enrollment, you’ll probably face penalties.

Medicare Part A Penalty

Once people turn 65, most get Medicare Part A for free. If you don’t meet the qualifications to get Part A free, you can still buy coverage. If you don’t buy coverage when you become eligible, you may receive a penalty.

Wondering if you’re eligible for Medicare? Learn more in our “Do I qualify for Medicare?” guide.

The penalty is typically 10% of your current Part A premium. Medicare will add this amount to your premium. This higher rate lasts double the number of years you were eligible for but did not sign up for Part A. So, if you avoided signing up for 3 years, you will pay higher premiums for 6 years.

Medicare Part B Penalty

Unlike the Part A penalty, the Part B penalty lasts for however long you have Part B. (Meaning this could be a lifelong penalty.) The initial penalty is 10% of the standard premium if you go a full 12 months without signing up after you become eligible. For every 12-month period you go after that, your penalty could increase another 10%. 

For example, let’s say your Initial Enrollment ended in August 2017. You decide not to sign up until October 2019, and your coverage starts January 1, 2020. Your Part B premium could be 20% of your premium because you went more than 24 full months without coverage.

Medicare Part D Penalty

If you already have creditable drug coverage, you might not need Medicare Part D. Find out more about creditable drug coverage in our Medicare Part D, explained.

If you decide not to enroll in Medicare Part D within 63 days of your Initial Enrollment Ending, you may end up with a Part D penalty if and when you do decide to enroll. The penalty is calculated by multiplying 1% of the “national base beneficiary premium” and the number of full months you went without Part D or other creditable drug coverage. 

Ready to find the perfect Medicare plan? Head over to our Medicare center to compare plans and save!

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