When you became eligible for Medicare, you signed up for Part A, also known as “Hospital Insurance,” but decided to delay enrolling in Part B. Since then, your medical needs may have changed, or you simply realized that you would prefer the security of having Medicare’s Part B coverage, which acts as “Medical Insurance” and includes many benefits, including important preventive services. It’s not too late to enroll in Part B, but you may want to consider your options now, during the General Enrollment Period.
When you do not enroll in Part B when you first become eligible for Medicare, you usually pay a late enrollment penalty when you do sign up. For most beneficiaries who delay enrollment, the cost of Medicare Part B will go up 10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Medicare Part B but did not take it. You will have to pay this penalty as long as you have Medicare Part B.
If you did not sign up for Medicare Part B when you were first eligible, you can take advantage of Medicare’s General Enrollment Period, which started on January 1 and ends on March 31. Your Part B coverage will begin on July 1.
Once you have Part B coverage, you have other options to consider. You may want to add prescription drug coverage to your benefits. If you have Original Medicare, you can enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) between April 1 and June 30. Take the time to compare the PDP plans available to you. Costs and benefits can differ, as plan formularies. The formulary is the list of drugs covered by each plan. If you already require medication, you may want to find a plan that covers that specific medication at a price you can afford.
With both Part A and Part B, you may also consider switching from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, with or without prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage Plans must offer the same benefits as Original Medicare, but many offer additional benefits that can include prescription drug coverage, vision and dental care, hearing exams, and much more. If you added Part B during the General Enrollment Period (January 1-March 31), you may make this change between April 1 and June 30. Medicare Advantage (MA) Plans vary, and you should compare your options thoroughly before making your decision.