Medicare and Group Health Plans
Getting your Medicare card can save you thousands each year in healthcare. Knowing when you should enroll, and also when should you delay enrollment is important decision you need to make in the months before you turn 65. Enrollment is fairly easy, but a wrong step can be costly.
3 months before your birth month is the beginning of your 7-month Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP. If you were born in July, then your window starts April 1 and continues through the end of October. During the months leading up this window, you should evaluate whether you will be keeping your current coverage, enrolling in full Medicare, or a combination of coverage.
If your current coverage is through an employer, and is fully paid by your employer, you may have the opportunity to keep that coverage if you feel it is better than what Medicare will provide. In that case, you would enroll in Medicare Part A only (coverage for hospitals) at no cost and keep your group health plan.
If your current coverage is paid partially or entirely by you, then a cost comparison will be necessary. In most cases, full coverage from Medicare Part and Part B, plus a Medicare supplement and a prescription drug plan (Part D) will total approximately $300 per month. This may sound like a lot less than your current plan, and it often is, but it is important to compare exactly what is covered, especially when it comes to prescription drugs.
If you decide to keep your group health plan and delay enrollment in Medicare Part B, you will need to ensure you receive a certificate of creditable coverage showing you had health insurance so you will not be penalized for the late enrollment when you do finally enroll. Also, be aware that COBRA coverage does not count as creditable coverage. Many wait until their COBRA has expired to enroll in Part B and then find they are liable for the late enrollment penalty.
Each situation is different, and you should consult a professional licensed agent to be sure you don’t make a decision that will cost you in the future.