With Open Enrollment behind us, many Medicare beneficiaries that are on a Medicare Advantage plan are unaware of the annual Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period.
From January 1st to February 14th beneficiaries who wish to dis-enroll from their Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare are allowed to. They can purchase a Medicare prescription drug plan and a Medicare supplemental plan to round out their Medicare coverage and fully protect themselves. Adding the Medicare prescription drug plan is a guaranteed right for them, but enrollment in a Medicare supplemental plan is not guaranteed unless certain criteria is met. If an individual does not meet the guaranteed issue criteria, then underwriting is involved. Sometimes someone doesn’t qualify right away for a Medicare Supplemental plan, and they may need to wait to add it until they do. Once someone is on Original Medicare, a supplemental plan can be added anytime in the year. Most people I meet with are unaware of this.
The second important enrollment period is the Medicare General Enrollment Period and it occurs annually between January 1st and March 31st, with coverage starting July 1st.
This is an important window of time for those that didn’t activate their Part B portion of Medicare during their Initial Enrollment Period, or had Part B activated but then dropped it. The first of the two scenarios is happening more frequently as the age requirement for receiving Social Security increases. Many people are still under the impression that they are automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when they turn 65. But now that most don’t qualify until after turning 65 for Social Security, they need to go online to Medicare.gov to enroll in Part B three months prior to their 65th birthday month. (Enrollment in Part A still happens automatically at 65 and for the majority of the population, and has no premium.) The second scenario; dropping Part B during the year generally happens because someone forgets to pay their premium (If you aren’t taking Social Security you get billed quarterly for Part B), or they fall on hard times and choose to not pay it.
In most cases, if you don’t sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B. Your monthly premium for Part B may go up 10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Part B, but didn’t sign up for it.