If you are still employed and have either a union group or employer health insurance policy, you may not need to sign up for Medicare Part B at this time. This depends on whether your employer’s plan is the primary insurer. If not, you will need to sign up for Medicare Plan B. If you don’t have to sign up for Part B, you should still enroll in Part A to help cover any unexpected hospital bills.
Signing up for Medicare Part B is extremely important if you do not have a health plan or that health plan is secondary to Medicare. It’s also important to note that neither COBRA nor VA benefits count as a health insurance plan for Medicare purposes. If you fail to sign up for Part B during the enrollment process, you will be subject to a penalty. The penalty may include your Part B premium going up 10 percent for every 12-month period you could have had Medicare Part B. Also, you will have to wait for the next enrollment period to sign up. The enrollment period is generally from January 1 to March 31 of each calendar year.
To join Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, you first need to be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. If you choose Part C, it will provide the Part A and B coverage. The Part C plan may also include extra coverage, such as dental, hearing, vision, and health and wellness programs. Most Part C plans also include prescription drug coverage.
If you do not sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan that covers prescription drugs, you’ll need to sign up for Medicare Part D at the same time you enroll in Parts A and B. Keep in mind that for every month you fail to enroll in Part C, your premium will increase by 1 percent. You will be exempt from these penalties, however, if you do not enroll in Part C because you have another drug coverage program through a private insurer. This is referred to as creditable coverage and your insurance carrier will know whether your policy is considered creditable coverage.