Medicare Snapshot: Stories from the Helpline

A Costly Mistake: Missing Part B Enrollment

An often-reported fact is that 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 and becoming Medicare-eligible each day. Less well known, and commonly misunderstood, are the rules concerning how to enroll in Medicare and the potential consequences for those who make mistakes. While many newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, others must make a proactive choice to enroll. Too frequently, individuals mistakenly delay or decline Part B enrollment because they are unaware of their rights and obligations, or because they are concerned about the premium cost. For those who fail to enroll in Part B in a timely manner, possible consequences include gaps in coverage, lifetime premium penalties, and disruptions in accessing needed care.

In 2014, the Medicare Rights Center’s national helpline fielded more than 14,000 questions, and the second most common question concerned transitioning to Medicare (22 percent). Nearly one-quarter of these calls were from people experiencing challenges enrolling in Part B, whether because they were navigating a specific hurdle (38 percent), did not understand enrollment periods (28 percent), or were unsure whether they were Medicare-eligible (13 percent).

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