UNITED STATES—Toni: My husband is a Korean War Veteran and never enrolled in Medicare Part B because he uses the VA, close to where we live in Iron Mountain, Michigan for his medical care. He is having to wait for care from the VA and he wants to go to a local cardiologist.

He is 88 years old and retired when he turned 65. Social Security told him that he must pay over $30,000 to now enroll in Medicare Part B because he never did enroll when he turned 65 in 1998.

Your name was given to us by an AARP rep to help with Robert’s Medicare problem. Is there a way that he can take Part B without having to pay the extra penalty? Thank You, Carole.

Carole: I really do not have good news for Robert because he did not enroll in Medicare Part B when he first turned 65 and was no longer working with “true” employer benefits. He will get the Part B “late enrollment” penalty when he enrolls in Medicare Part B between now and when the Medicare’s General Enrollment Period ends on March 31st.

One way Robert may not be charged the “late enrollment penalty” is to qualify for Medicaid due to having low-income amount. If he does not meet the state which you live in Medicaid income qualification, then he will be charged the “extra” penalty.

He will receive the “famous” Part B penalty because he did not enroll in Part B when he was first eligible for Medicare. His “late enrollment” penalty is 10 percent for each full 12-month period that Robert could have had Part B but did not sign up for it. You said that he turned 65 in 1998 which is 23 full 12-month periods or an extra 23 times 10 percent totaling 230 percent each month for the rest of his Medicare life.

His Medicare Part B penalty will be 230 percent times $148.50 or an extra $341.55 plus Part B premium of $148.50 each month enrolled in Part B for 2021.  The total of his Medicare Part B premium for 2021 will be $490.05 monthly premium not the average Part B premium of $148.50 each month.

No one ever knows when they need to receive healthcare outside of a VA Center. Now, you understand the value of enrolling Robert in Medicare Part B when he turned 65, whether he is a Veteran who uses the VA or someone who only has Medicare and needs serious medical needs.

Part B covers your outpatient needs, doctor services such as office visits and even doctor performing surgery, MRIs, chemotherapy, durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers etc. and the list can go on.   Without Part B of Medicare, a person may have to pay 100 percent out of their pocket and this could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But not enrolling in Part D (Medicare Prescription Drug plan) is another story. Medicare considers the VA as creditable coverage. When you enroll in Part D later, you do not get the late Medicare Part D enrollment penalty. Guess what no Part D donut hole when receiving prescriptions from the VA!! That is a good thing for America’s Veterans on Medicare!

Carole, my advice to you and Robert is that he stays with the VA, since the penalty may cost you a fortune. He may not be able to go to outside VA doctors or healthcare facilities for additional medical care. He can still receive his medical care at the VA.

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