Press Release             

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul Precht
Director of Policy and Communications
202-637-0961

Akiko Takano
Deputy Director of Communications
212-204-6214

March 9, 2010

Eligible Consumers Should Act Before March 31 to Enroll in Medicare

-- Delaying Enrollment Could Have Significant Financial Consequences --

New York, NY—Consumers eligible for Medicare should enroll in Medicare Part B during the 2010 General Enrollment Period (GEP), which ends on March 31. Consumers who are not enrolled in Medicare, but should be, are urged to enroll by March 31 for Part B coverage, which would take effect July 1. Medicare Part B covers doctor visits and other outpatient care. 

People who are required to take Medicare but who do not enroll during the 2010 GEP will not have another chance to enroll in Medicare until January 2011, and their coverage will not begin until July 2011. This means that a person could be without coverage for as long as 15 months. In addition, people who delay enrollment may be subject to a Late Enrollment Penalty (LEP) for every 12 months they are not enrolled in Medicare Part B but should be.

“Not enrolling in Medicare at the right time can have severe implications for consumers,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “Medicare Rights receives several calls a week from people who did not enroll in Medicare when they were required to and as a result have gaps in coverage and difficulty affording medically necessary care.”

Consumers may have declined Part B because they have COBRA or retiree coverage from a former employer. The General Enrollment Period that ends March 31 is an opportunity to correct that mistake.

Older adults who declined Part B because they were misled by a government official may be able to enroll retroactively in Part B without a late enrollment penalty by seeking equitable relief, but the burden of proof for consumers is high, making success difficult. The Medicare Rights Center has seen a tripling of the number of equitable relief cases it handles over the last three years.

The complexity of rules that govern how Medicare works with other types of insurance is a common pitfall that lead people to make the costly mistake of waiting to enroll in Part B.

The Medicare Rights Center is available to help. Visit Medicare Interactive, a free, web-based counseling tool, at www.medicareinteractive.org. Or to speak with a counselor, call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-333-4114. Counselors are available Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern Time).

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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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