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The Consequences of Delaying Medicare


If you don’t enroll in Medicare when you first become eligible, you could face late enrollment penalties and higher premiums. Some people are under the impression that if you delay Medicare, you can save money, but this depends on your circumstances.

Before you decide to delay Medicare, weigh the cons and pros with your insurance agent. Deciding whether to postpone Medicare can be difficult. We’re here to help you understand how to avoid late fees, the consequences of waiting to sign up for Medicare, and more.

Penalties for Delaying Medicare

If you decide to work past 65, Medicare recommends you still sign up for at least Part A. This part of Medicare covers inpatient services while Part B pays for outpatient services. You won’t have a monthly premium for Part A if you or your spouse pays Medicare taxes for 40 quarters.

It’s best to sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period. This window is unique to your birthday. It begins three months before you turn 65 and ends three months following your birth month.

If you don’t sign up for Parts A and B when you’re first eligible, you could face penalties. However, you don’t need to be intimidated by late fees when you know how to avoid them.

Penalty for Delaying Medicare Part A

Most Medicare-eligible people are entitled to premium-free Part A, so they sign up as soon as they can. Yet, when you need to buy Part A but don’t right away, you may face a 10% premium increase for double the number of years you went without the coverage. For example, if you waited one year to enroll in Part A, you’ll pay a penalty on top of your premium for two years.

However, the Part B late penalty is more common. Further, it doesn’t go away.

Penalty for Delaying Medicare Part B

When you don’t sign up for Part B in time, you’ll pay 10% more on top of your premium for every 12 months you were eligible before signing up. This premium then lasts the lifetime of your Part B coverage.

What if I Delay Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs. Similar to Part B, it’s encouraged to apply for Part D as soon as you become eligible. Even if you aren’t on medications, dodging Part D could cost you in the long run with higher premiums. The late fee is 1% for every month you delay enrollment. You are also subject to a penalty if your eligibility comes from a disability.

Here are three ways to avoid a late enrollment penalty for Part D:

  • Enroll in Medicare drug coverage when you’re first eligible
  • Enroll in Medicare drug coverage if you lose other creditable coverage
  • Keep records handy (for your insurance carrier) proving when you had creditable drug coverage

Please note that you’re required to pay your premium along with your late fee. Another thing to remember is that Part D’s late fee may increase each year.

Will My Coverage Allow Me to Avoid Medicare’s Late Penalties?

What if you’re approaching Medicare eligibility, but you have a group health plan through your employer or your spouse? Medicare only considers this coverage creditable if it is from an employer with 20 or more employees. So, if this describes the health insurance you get through your job or your spouse, you should be safe to postpone Medicare until whoever has such coverage retires.

What Should I Do if I Missed My Initial Enrollment Period?

You can sign up for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period if you missed your Initial Enrollment Period. This window occurs annually from January 1 through March 31. Additionally, you could qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if you qualify due to certain life events.

One of the events that qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period is the loss of current health coverage. For this, you’ll get an eight-month Special Enrollment Period. It’s important to plan ahead, or else you could experience a coverage gap. Therefore, it’s strongly recommended to enroll in Part B within a month of losing employer coverage or when you retire.

Think Before Pushing Down Your Enrollment

By planning ahead, you save both money and time. One of your first steps to avoiding late fees is researching your options, then contacting a Medicare agent. Now that you understand the basics, jot down your questions and concerns for when it’s time to enroll in Medicare.

Lindsay Malzone

Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare expert for MedicareFAQ. She has been working in the Medicare industry since 2017. She is featured in many publications as well as writes regularly for other expert columns regarding Medicare. You can also find her over on our Medicare Channel on YouTube as well as contributing to our Medicare Community on Facebook.

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