Medicare Part B: when and how do I sign up?

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Your initial enrollment period for Ohio Medicare is three months before, the month of, and the three months after your 65th birthday.

Almost everyone in Ohio aging into Medicare at 65 should enroll in Part A as soon as possible. It costs you nothing, i.e. no premium! (If you don’t have enough Social Security credits to qualify for premium-free Part A, you should defer enrollment until you quit working.)

Consumer Reports recently put out a great article that I wanted to share with you below:

When to sign up for Part B

If you don’t sign up for Part B when you should, you will be hit with a harsh penalty: a permanent increase in your premium of 10 percent for every year that you should have been enrolled but weren’t. In 2014 the standard Part B premium is $104.90 a month.

Most people should sign up for Part B either when they turn 65 or when they or their spouse stop working, whichever comes later. Sounds simple, but no one is going to come after you to enroll, there are some exceptions, and it’s easy to make a mistake. Here are the rules for people in the following situations:

    • You receive a subsidy to purchase an individual health plan through your state’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

      Once you become eligible for Medicare, you are no longer entitled to this subsidy. You should enroll in all parts of Medicare as soon as you are old enough, and cancel your marketplace plan.

  • You have an individual health plan but don’t receive a subsidy to help pay for it. If you keep this plan instead of enrolling in Medicare when you should have, you’ll be hit with the late enrollment penalty. Cancel it and enroll in Medicare.


  • You are still working at a large employer. You can delay Part B enrollment without penalty if you have health insurance through your own or a spouse’s current job at a workplace with 20 employees or more. Once the last working spouse leaves his or her job, even if they’re getting COBRA or retiree insurance, it’s time to sign up for Part B. You have eight months, starting the month after the job ends, to get this done without penalty.


  • You are still working at a small employer. If your workplace has fewer than 20 employees, sign up for Part B at 65. Your employee health plan then becomes a secondary plan that kicks in after Medicare has paid its share of the bills. Workplaces this size are allowed to drop you from their employee plan after you reach 65, something that’s against the law for larger employers. If you ignore this rule, and your group health plan finds out you’re over 65, it may refuse to pay claims that Medicare would have paid.


  • You or your spouse is on COBRA. Even though the COBRA plan is exactly the same as your former group health plan, once you turn 65 you must switch to Medicare. But COBRA can still function as the main insurance for the younger spouse, and you can keep parts of your COBRA plan that Medicare doesn’t cover, such as your dental benefit. Learn more about Medicare and COBRA.


  • You have a retiree plan. If you have a retiree plan from your old job, you must sign up for Part B when you turn 65, even if your retiree plan doesn’t change at all. After you go on Medicare, the retiree plan becomes a secondary plan (but may still function as the main insurance for your younger spouse). If coverage is meager and premiums high, compare the cost of keeping and using it the cost of a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan instead. Also ask your retiree plan’s administrator if you can rejoin the plan later if circumstances change; sometimes plans allow this and sometimes they don’t.


  • You receive veteran’s benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs and Medicare operate independently of each other for the most part. Medicare won’t pay for care you get at a VA facility, and the VA won’t help you with your Medicare co-payments and deductibles (except if the VA authorizes you to get care at a non-VA hospital). The VA encourages veterans to sign up for Medicare A and B to have the flexibility to seek care at non-VA facilities if need be. Moreover, if you are not in one of the VA’s higher priority groups, you could lose your coverage suddenly if Congress decided to cut back the VA’s budget. At that point, you would have to pay a penalty for late enrollment in Medicare Part B. Learn more about VA and Medicare.


  • You have TRICARE for Life. If your military service entitles you to TRICARE for Life, you must sign up for Part B when you turn 65, regardless of whether you are working or have other sources of coverage. If you don’t, you lose your eligibility for this valuable benefit. Learn more about how TRICARE works with Medicare.


  • You are on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHB). FEHB will continue to cover you after retirement, even if you don’t take Medicare at all. But if you delay enrollment in Part B after retiring, and then change your mind later, you’ll be hit with the Part B late-enrollment penalty. Because FEHB premiums can be substantial, you need to consider your options carefully. Learn more about how FEHB works with Medicare