Missed the Boat on Medicare Enrollment? Sign Up Now.

Missed the Boat on Medicare Enrollment? Sign Up Now.

Missed the Boat on Medicare Enrollment? Sign Up Now.

Medicare provides critical health benefits to millions of seniors, and those benefits kick in once you turn 65. In fact, your initial window to sign up for Medicare starts three months before the month of your 65th birthday, and it ends three months after that month.

It's advisable to sign up for Medicare during your initial seven-month enrollment window for a couple of reasons. First, securing coverage in a timely manner could help you avoid having to pay for medical services out of pocket -- a consequence of not having insurance. Secondly, signing up for Medicare on time could help you avoid costly penalties that wreak havoc on your retirement budget.


Medicare Part A, which covers hospital care, is generally free for enrollees. Part B, which covers outpatient services and diagnostics, charges a premium. The standard monthly Part B premium changes from year to year, and higher earners in retirement are often subject to a surcharge due to their income. But if you're a lower earner who doesn't enroll on time, you might face a surcharge, too. Specifically, Medicare will tack 10% onto the cost of your Part B premiums for each 12-month period you were eligible to enroll but didn't.

But what happens if you didn't enroll in Medicare during your initial seven-month window? When's your next chance to sign up for coverage?

The answer is that you can, in fact, enroll in Medicare right now. But don't expect your coverage to start right away, and don't be surprised if your premiums cost more.

Medicare's general enrollment period

Each year, Medicare runs a general enrollment period that begins on January 1 and ends on March 31. You can sign up for Medicare Parts A and B during that enrollment period if you failed to sign up for coverage when you were first eligible, or if you aren't eligible for a special enrollment period.

If you enroll in Medicare between now and March 31, your coverage won't begin until July 1, 2020. Furthermore, you may be subject to penalties that raise your Part A and B costs.

Generally speaking, if you have 10 years of work under your belt and paid Medicare taxes during that time, you're eligible for free Part A coverage in retirement. But if you're subject to Medicare Part A premiums because you don't meet that requirement, then you could face a surcharge on those premiums by enrolling in Part A late -- specifically, 10% per 12-month period you could've had Part A coverage but didn't sign up for it. And you could face a similar penalty if you're enrolling late in Part B.

What about Medicare Part D?

You can't sign up for a Part D drug plan during Medicare's general enrollment. You can, however, sign up for one between April 1 and June 30 once you've enrolled in Parts A and B. That drug plan will then take effect on July 1.

Keep in mind that there are penalties for signing up late for Part D, too. Specifically, you'll be charged 1% of the national base beneficiary premium (which is $32.74 in 2020) times the number of full months you don't have a drug plan in place. If you go 18 months without Part D, you'll be looking at a penalty of $5.90 per month.

If you already missed your initial enrollment window for Medicare, be sure to get moving on securing coverage in the coming weeks. And if you're not yet eligible to sign up for Medicare, find out when your initial enrollment period begins so you don't risk missing it and incurring costly penalties that haunt you throughout retirement.

The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook

If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,728 more... each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular


By Andrea Woroch

Every year, countless people throughout the country dream up personal finance-related New Year's Resolutions. Most of the goals are centered around saving more money, whether it's by earning more or spending less. Some folks have trips they want to take or projects they need to cross off their to-do list, while others just want the security of bolstering their savings accounts. Regardless of the goal, most people fail because they overlook the most critical step in achieving their objective - a well thought out plan. Below are seven detailed adjustments that will actually help you reach your financial target and lead a more financially responsible 2020.

1. Track your spending.

It's easy to blow your budget when you have no idea where your money is going. Tracking how you spend allows you to identify where you need to cut back — hello, Target! — which makes it easier to limit unnecessary purchases. Remember, you can't change what y...

8 Ways At-Home Entrepreneurs Can Supplement Their Income

Combat Thermostat Ignorance and Save

Say "No" to Save Dough


Every direct employee of a company should receive a W-2 form in January. The W-2 is the base document that defines your tax obligations, so it is important that you review and understand yours. However, some people are confused by some of the form's numbers — for example, why the wage listed on a W-2 form does not always match their salary — and simply fill in the information from each box into their tax forms without giving it a thorough review to verify that the information is correct.

Employers can and do make mistakes on W-2s, and these errors can cost you money as well as time and effort to correct downstream tax ramifications. Let's take a look at the W-2 form in a bit more detail.

Understanding Your W-2 Tax Forms

First, verify the pertinent baseline information in the spaces labeled with letters, namely your Social Security number and both addresses (yours and your employer's). Assuming that's correct, look at the block of eight boxes in the uppe...

No W-2 Tax Form? What To Do

What To Do If You Are Audited

Why Can't the Government Provide Your Tax Data?

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News


Entertainment & Dining

Latest News

Local Sports

NWI Prep Sport News

Weather Alerts