Medicare Should Warn Enrollees on Steep Late Sign-up Penalties
For many Americans entering retirement, it comes as an unwelcome surprise: Medicare premiums become much more expensive if you do not sign up on time. The program tacks on a 10 percent penalty on monthly Part B premiums for each full 12-month period of late enrollment, and you keep on paying the penalties for the rest of your life.
The aim is to avoid “adverse selection,” which occurs when people sign up for coverage only when they think they will need it. That helps keep premiums lower for all Medicare enrollees.
But a heads-up would be nice. And that is the intent of the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification Act (BENES Act), a bill introduced with bipartisan support last week in the U.S. Senate (companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier). It would require the government to send a notification letter in the year before your 65th birthday – the first date of Medicare eligibility.
The letter would explain the enrollment rules, and – importantly – how Medicare interacts with other insurance coverage you might have.
Roughly 750,000 Medicare beneficiaries paid late enrollment penalties in 2014, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). That is less than 2 percent of enrollees, but for those who do pay the penalties, the bite is painful. On average, total premiums for late enrollees were 29 percent higher, CRS reported.
Medicare is the primary source of health insurance for seniors, and choosing the correct Medicare plan is important. However, it only provides for 100 days of skilled nursing care. Planning for those potential costs are a critical component for anybody, regardless of when you sign up for Medicare.
Want to discuss your plan for paying for your care needs today and in the future? Contact us to discuss how you can plan for future long term care needs that are not covered by Medicare.