FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nathan Heggem
Policy and Communications Associate
March 14, 2011
Last Chance for Eligible Consumers to Enroll in Medicare
-- General Enrollment Period Ends March 31 --
New York, NY—Consumers who are eligible for Medicare, but who have not yet enrolled in Medicare Part B, should do so before March 31, when the General Enrollment Period (GEP) ends. Part B of Medicare covers a range of services, including doctor visits and outpatient therapy. Consumers who enroll during the GEP will have coverage effective July 1, 2011.
“It is imperative that consumers take this opportunity to enroll in Medicare,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “Time and time again on our hotline, we hear from people who did not enroll in Part B when they first became eligible and are now suffering the consequences. The complex rules that govern how employer and retiree health insurance coordinate with Medicare often create a perfect storm of confusion for consumers. Many experience a gap in coverage, and when they finally do gain coverage they are stuck with a premium penalty that they must pay for the rest of their lives.”
Most Medicare consumers enroll in Part B during their Initial Enrollment Period, the seven-month period surrounding their 65th birthday.
Some people have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll in Medicare after the Initial Enrollment Period has passed. You may be eligible for an SEP if you or your spouse had group health coverage through a current employer at the time you became eligible for Medicare. In such cases, you can typically enroll in Medicare without penalty at any time while you still have group health coverage from a current employer, and for eight months after you lose your group health coverage or you or your spouse stop working, whichever comes first.
If your Initial Enrollment Period has passed and you do not qualify for an SEP, you need to enroll in Medicare during the GEP. You must do so before March 31, because you will not have another chance to enroll until January 1, 2012, for coverage effective July 1, 2012.
Consumers who missed their chance to enroll and were misinformed by a government official about enrollment rules may be able to enroll retroactively in Part B without incurring a late enrollment penalty. However, this process, called “equitable relief,” can be difficult to complete.
To enroll in Medicare, contact your local Social Security office. You can also apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov.
For more information, go to Medicare Interactive (www.medicareinteractive.org), the Medicare Rights Center’s free web-based counseling tool. Visit Medicare Interactive to learn more about:
- enrolling in Medicare
- enrolling in Medicare with employer insurance
- enrolling in Medicare if you miss your Initial Enrollment Period
- the premium penalty for delayed enrollment
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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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