UNITED STATES—Toni, I am having a huge problem with my Medicare because I did not enroll in Part B at the correct time.

I am 70 years old and 18 months ago was laid off from my job of 30+ years. A misguided friend advised me that I did not need to enroll in Medicare Part B because I had COBRA, but that person was terribly wrong. I waited too long to enroll in Part B. I am told by Social Security that I can enrolled in Part B, but not until January of 2023.

To make matters worse, I fell June 10th and broke my leg in 3 places; $64,300 later I find out that since I do not have Part B I have to pay 100 percent of the doctor bills, orthopedic surgeon bills, and now all the rehab cost until I can learn to walk all over again. There goes my retirement nest egg!!

I would like to meet with your office and discover my Medicare options. I have no idea what to do or where to start. Thank you, Alex from Phoenix, AZ.

Hello Alex: The stressful rule of Medicare is the reason I wrote the “Medicare Survival Guide” …Because it is WHAT you DON’T know that will HURT you!! If you do not follow the Medicare rules properly or the way Medicare wants; then guess who pays more…You do!!

I want those reading the Medicare column to know how important it is to be sure you are enrolled in Medicare Part B when you are leaving your job, especially those enrolling in COBRA.

When turning 65 enroll in Part B at least 90 days prior to your 65th birthday if you or your spouse are not working full-time. “Is still working” with true employer benefits (not an individual plan) is what Medicare searches for to keep from giving you the Part B penalty.

Those past 65 and 90 days, when you leave your job and enroll in COBRA, the Toni Says® Medicare team always advises everyone that we consult with to have Medicare Part B in place as soon as you can or at least the month your COBRA is starting.

Medicare gives an 8-month window to enroll in Part B when leaving your employment with “true” employer benefits.

If you wait longer than 8-months as you have Alex, then you are subject to the Part B 10 percent penalty for each year or 12-month period, you could have had Part B which goes all the way back to the day you enrolled in Medicare Part A. If that is 5 years like in your situation, the penalty will be 50 percent on top of the Part B premium. This penalty last for the rest of your Medicare life.

Anyone who does not enroll in Part B, when they were first eligible, can only enroll in Part B from January 1-March 31 which is Medicare’s General Enrollment Period, and the Medicare Part B will begin on July 1.

Confusing, isn’t it? I do not know why they (Medicare) cannot make this simpler, but that is Washington for you!

People need to understand that Medicare is not a cookie cutter situation, and one size does not fit everyone’s Medicare health insurance needs.

For Medicare enrollment questions either call your local Social Security office specific 800 number or call the Toni Says Medicare hotline at 832-519-8664 for help.

Toni King, Medicare author/advocate is giving a $5 discount to the Toni Says® readers on the new 2022 Medicare Survival Guide® Advanced book at www.tonisays.com. Have a Medicare question? Call 832/519-8664 or email info@tonisays.com.