NEWS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2017

Clock Ticking for Eligible Individuals to Enroll in Medicare Part B
— General Enrollment Period Ends March 31 —

New York, NY—Older adults and people with disabilities who are eligible for Medicare Part B but have not yet enrolled should do so before March 31, when Medicare’s annual General Enrollment Period (GEP) ends. Individuals who enroll in Part B during the GEP will gain coverage effective July 1, 2017.

Individuals who did not enroll in Medicare Part B when they originally became eligible will have to pay a premium penalty for every year they delayed enrolling. Medicare Part B covers a range of services, including doctor visits, outpatient therapy, and lab tests.

“March is the final month this year to enroll in Medicare Part B for anyone who didn’t do so when they became eligible,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities.

“A leading trend in calls to our national helpline is Part B enrollment issues, frequently from people who missed their enrollment period. The complex rules that govern how employer and retiree health insurance coordinate with Medicare often lead to confusion about when to enroll in Part B. Mistakes can be costly, resulting in gaps in health coverage and a lifetime of paying Part B premium penalties,” Baker said.

Most people who are eligible for Medicare enroll during their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), the seven-month period surrounding their 65th birthday. However, some people have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll in Medicare after their IEP has passed.

Consumers are eligible for an SEP if they or their spouse had group health coverage through a current employer at the time they became eligible for Medicare. In such cases, they can typically enroll in Medicare without penalty at any time while they still have group health coverage from a current employer, and for eight months after they lose their group health coverage or they or their spouse stop working, whichever comes first.

Individuals whose IEP has passed and do not qualify for an SEP can only enroll in Medicare Part B during the GEP, which runs from January 1 through March 31. They will not have another chance to enroll until next year’s GEP, for coverage effective July 1, 2018. To enroll in Medicare, people should contact their local Social Security office or apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov.

To help people nearing Medicare avoid costly enrollment mistakes, the Medicare Rights Center helped to draft the Beneficiary Enrollment Notice and  Eligibility Simplification Act (BENES), a bipartisan bill that was introduced in Congress last summer. The BENES Act improves notice for people approaching Medicare, streamlines rules and aligns enrollment periods, and expands relief for people who mistakenly delay signing up for Part B. Medicare Rights is working with members of Congress to reintroduce the BENES Act later this year.

For more information, go to Medicare Interactive (www.medicareinteractive.org), the Medicare Rights Center’s free online counseling tool. Visit Medicare Interactive to learn more about:

Contact: Mitchell Clark – mclark@medicarerights.org – 212-204-6286

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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

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