UNITED STATES—Toni: I need your help! I have discovered that my mother, who is 67, never enrolled in Medicare Part B or D. She was under the impression that if she did not go to the doctor, she did not need to pay the premium because she needed the money to pay for her car payment and could enroll later.

She has been diagnosed with colon cancer. I called Social Security to help her enroll in Part B and was informed that she must wait until January 1 to enroll in Medicare Part B. The Social Security agent said that my mother has missed her “window of opportunity” since she did not enroll when she turned 65 and is going to receive a penalty when she enrolls. Please advise me what I can do to help her? Thanks, Jeanine from El Paso, TX.

Oh My, Jeanine: Your mother has an extremely serious Medicare issue! She will have to enroll during Medicare’s General Enrollment Period (GEP) which is from January 1-March 31 each year for those that never enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. Your mother will receive the famous “Part B penalty” for the rest of her Medicare life.

Beginning January 1, 2023, Medicare’s General Enrollment Period (GEP) January 1-March 31 rules changed that help Americans who had not enrolled in Medicare when turning 65. Now when you enroll in January, February or March, your Medicare Part B will begin the first day of the following month. If you wait past March 31 to enroll, your Medicare enrollment will be delayed until Jan.1 of the next year, and you’ll receive a higher Part B penalty which will go all the way back to the month you turn 65.

Jeanine, when your mother enrolls in Medicare Part B during Medicare’s General Enrollment Period (GEP), she will receive the Part B penalty which is a 10 percent penalty for each 12-month period or year that she failed to enroll. Your mother’s penalty will be 20 percent (2 years times 10 percent) for as long as your mother could have had Part B but failed to enroll. The penalty remains in effect for the life of the Medicare beneficiary’s Medicare coverage.

For your mother to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan, she must wait until the next Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) which is from October 15-December 7. The Medicare Part D plan will start January 1. The Medicare Part D penalty is 1 percent for each year that you could have enrolled in Part D but failed to enroll in Part D from age 65. This penalty, which is based upon the national Part D average premium, also changes as the national Part D average changes.

Medicare enrollment periods are:

  • Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): 7-month window that begins 3 months before turning 65, the month one turns 65and 3 months after one turn 65.
  • Special Enrollment Period (SEP): The 8-month window of signing up for Part B without receiving a Part B penalty after turning 65. One must be working full-time with company benefits to avoid the Part B penalty.
  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): January 1-March 31 for anyone who has not enrolled in Part B and now can enroll in Medicare Part B beginning the next month. You WILL receive a Medicare Part B penalty if you are past your IEP and do not meet the criteria of the SEP.

Currently, there are over 7 million Americans on Medicare receiving a Medicare Part B penalty costing on average $5,000 in Medicare lifetime penalties because they did not enroll at the right time. Remember, “with Medicare, what you don’t know WILL hurt you!”

Call the Toni Says® Medicare office at 832/519-8664 or email info@tonisays.com regarding your Medicare plans and options.