AARP Eye Center
10,000 people sign up for Medicare each day - there's bound to be a few mistakes made. Check out the top 10 Medicare mistakes - and how you can avoid them.
1. Assuming you don't "qualify" if you haven't worked long enough:
Earning 40 credits through paying payroll taxes at work - about 10 years' work - ensures that you won't have to pay premiums for Part A services (mainly hospital insurance) when you join Medicare. But you don't need any work credits to qualify for Part B (doctors' services, outpatient care, medical equipment) and Part D (prescription drugs), provided that you are 65 or older, and a U.S. citizen or a legal resident who's lived in the United States for at least five years. You may also qualify for Part D benefits on your spouse's work record, or you can pay premiums for them. But if you wait to sign up until you've earned 40 credits, you may end up paying permanent late penalties.
2. Failing to enroll in Part B when you should:
Enrolling at the time that's right for you is critical. If you don't, you risk late penalties, in the form of surcharges added to your premiums for all future years, and delays of several months before your coverage kicks in. If you have health coverage, beyond age 65, from an employer for whom you (or your spouse) actively work, and the employer has 20 or more workers, you can delay Part B enrollment without penalty until the employment ends. Otherwise, you need to sign up during your seven-month initial enrollment period, of which the fourth month is the one in which you turn 65.
3. Assuming you don't need Medicare Part B if you have retiree health coverage:
Part B is optional, but you should carefully check with your retiree plan to see how it fits in with Medicare. In many such plans, Medicare automatically becomes primary coverage and the plan pays only for a few services that Medicare doesn't cover. So if you fail to sign up for Part B when you're required to, you'll essentially have no coverage.
4. Thinking you must reach full retirement age before signing up:
Full retirement age for most people is now 66. But to avoid late penalties you need to sign up for Medicare at age 65, unless you have health coverage from your own or your spouse's current employment. You don't need to be collecting government retirement benefits to enroll in Medicare.
5. Not signing up for Part D because you don't take any prescription drugs:
Why pay Part D premiums if you need no medicines? Because you don't have a crystal ball and can't be sure that you won't get some unforeseen illness or injury that takes expensive drugs to treat (some cancer drugs cost thousands of dollars a month). Part D, like all insurance, provides coverage when you need it, but doesn't allow you to wait to sign up until the need becomes urgent. One solution (if you don't have drug coverage from elsewhere): Pick the plan with the lowest premium, so you can get covered at the least cost.
Want to know some other common Medicare mistakes? Check out the original article from Patricia Barry!