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Vol. 16, Issue 15 – July 24, 2017
What is time-limited equitable relief? Dear Marci,

I turned 65 a while ago and I didn’t enroll in Medicare Part B. I instead kept my Marketplace plan. How can I enroll in Medicare?

– Noah (Portland, OR)

Dear Noah,

In general, if you do not enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), you must wait for the General Enrollment Period (GEP) to sign up for Medicare. The GEP runs January 1 through March 31 of each year, and if you enroll during this period, your Medicare benefits will start on July 1. This means that you may experience gaps in coverage. You will also likely have a late enrollment penalty for not signing up for Medicare when you were first eligible.

You will likely have to use the GEP to enroll in Medicare if (a) you kept your Marketplace plan and did not enroll in Medicare when you were first eligible, or (b) you enrolled in premium-free Part A and kept your Marketplace plan when you became eligible for Medicare. You will likely have to use the GEP to enroll in Medicare Part B.

Currently, you may be able to request time-limited equitable relief to enroll in Part B outside of the GEP. Time-limited equitable relief is a process you can use to enroll in Part B and/or eliminate a Part B late enrollment penalty (LEP). You may be eligible to request time-limited equitable relief if you delayed Medicare Part B enrollment while you had a Marketplace plan.

For example, maybe you enrolled in Medicare Part A and declined Part B when you first became eligible for Medicare because your Marketplace plan with cost assistance was cheaper than Part B. You may not have realized that you were supposed to sign up for Medicare and that you would lose your cost assistance because of your Medicare eligibility. In some instances, you may have continued to receive cost assistance even after enrolling in Part A. In other situations, you may have faced Marketplace plan coverage problems once your plan realized that Medicare should be covering costs. For example, the Marketplace plan may have stopped paying primary for your health costs.

Time-limited equitable relief is a limited process that allows you to either (a) enroll in Medicare Part B without penalty, or (b) eliminate or reduce your Part B LEP if you are already enrolled in Part B but had delayed enrollment when you had a Marketplace plan.

In order to qualify for time-limited equitable relief, you must be enrolled in premium-free Part A and (a) have an Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) that began April 1, 2013 or later, or (b) have been notified of retroactive premium-free Part A on October 1, 2013, or later.

To request time-limited equitable relief you will need to contact the Social Security Administration or visit a local Social Security office and ask to use time-limited equitable relief to enroll in Part B and/or eliminate your Part B LEP. You should bring proof that you are enrolled in a Marketplace plan, like a recent premium bill. If you received a letter about being enrolled in Medicare and a Marketplace plan, you can also bring that letter as proof. The opportunity to request time-limited equitable relief lasts until September 30, 2017.

Noah, if you think you are eligible to use time-limited equitable relief, please contact the Medicare Rights Center’s national helpline at 800-333-4114 for further assistance.

– Marci

Health Tip

Are you having difficulty keeping up with the cost of your prescription medications? A new University of Michigan study confirms that 27% of individuals between ages 50 and 80 find their prescription drug costs were a financial burden. While many survey respondents did not speak to a doctor about drug costs, 67% of those who did received a recommendation for a less expensive drug. Of those who spoke to a pharmacist, 37% received a lower cost recommendation. Check out the study, reported by MedlinePlus and the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and know that if you are having problems with drug costs, it pays to speak up!

Need to Know

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