Many people struggle over the decision of whether or not to join Medicare when they turn 65 and are still working. All of the mail you are receiving probably tells you that you should enroll. What they aren’t telling you is that if you work for a large employer (20 employees or more), you should think twice prior to enrolling.
The reason that you should use caution is that enrolling in Part B of Medicare starts the clock for your Medigap Open Enrollment Period. The Medigap Open Enrollment Period starts the month that you are both 65 or older AND enrolled in Medicare Part B. This is the six-month window that allows you to enroll in ANY Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan without answering any health questions or being denied coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions. If you choose to enroll in a Medigap plan outside of the Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you will need to qualify based on health.
If you are worried about incurring a penalty if you do not enroll, check with your human resources department to see if your employer group plan counts as creditable coverage when it comes to Medicare. If you work for a larger employer, the large group insurance will be the primary payer, and Medicare (if elected) would be considered secondary. Those who work for small employers (less than 20 employees) need to apply for Medicare when they are first eligible because Medicare will be the primary payer in this situation.
If you have missed your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, it is still possible to buy a Medigap plan if you can qualify based on health. If not, you can still enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare Cost Plan (if available in your area) without having to answer health questions.
Unless you have a compelling reason to enroll in Medicare Part B while you are still covered by a large group employer plan, you are often better off delaying your Part B until you retire. This will preserve your Medigap Open Enrollment Period.
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