Senior Solutions: How to balance Medicare I, insurance

Q. I will become eligible for Medicare I within the next several months. But I am still employed and still under my employer’s group insurance. A friend told me I had to elect Part B or I would be penalized. Is that true?—Jack K.

A. Not so, if the reason for delaying the election of Part B is due to your currently being covered under a group insurance plan by an employer or union, Medicare does not impose any additional cost for Part B.

My suggestion would be to talk to your benefit administrator. You may want to exercise your election when eligible. Depending on the plan and the cost, you may be better off with a Medicare Supplement Policy.

Q. When I first became eligible, for Medicare, I was still covered under my employers group plan. I elected Part B and later canceled it as I did not want to pay two premiums. I recently reinstated it, but the insurance company to which I applied for Medicare Supplement coverage would not accept me for medical reasons. I was told I was no longer eligible for Open Enrollment. Is this true?—Dan M.

A. Unfortunately, this is true. The Open Enrollment provisions of Medicare only apply to the first time you elect Medicare Part B. Open Enrollment provisions are extended for a period of six months from the date you first elect Part B.

Q. I did not elect Part B when I was first eligible. Can I still get it?—Lisa O.

A. Yes, you may. There are two enrollment periods available depending on the reason for your delay in electing Part B. The General Enrollment Period runs from Jan. 1 through March 31 of each year. It is for those individuals who did not elect Part B when eligible and did not have any other coverage such as group insurance at the time. The cost of Part B will increase by 10 percent for each 12-month period that you could have had Part B but did not take it. If you elect Part B during this time frame, it will be effective on July 1.

The Special Enrollment period is for those who were covered by some form of group insurance at the time they become eligible for Part B. You can enroll anytime you are still covered by the group insurance, or within eight months following the termination of employment or the group insurance, whichever is first. Normally there is no additional charge for Part B if election is during the Special Enrollment Period.

Peter Gulatto has been associated with the insurance industry for more the 30 years. He has held a Certified Insurance Counselors (CIC) designation since 1983. His responsibilities have included those of an insurance agent, risk manager, consultant and insurance educator. His interest now is focused on providing answers to the insurance challenges facing our senior population.

Submit your questions to Peter J. Gulatto c/o The Centurion Group Inc., P.O. Box 3333, Rockford, IL 61106, or call at 815-229-0994.

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