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Can I Delay Medicare Part B Enrollment Without Paying Higher Premiums?

Yes, in certain situations, you can delay your Medicare Part B enrollment without paying higher premiums (also known as a late-enrollment penalty). If you didn’t enroll in Medicare Part B when you were first eligible because you or your spouse was working and had group coverage through an employer or union, you can choose to sign up for Medicare Part B during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) without paying a late-enrollment penalty.

You can sign up for Medicare Part B at any time that you have coverage through current or active employment. Or you can sign up for Medicare during the eight-month Special Enrollment Period that starts when your employer or union group coverage ends or you stop working (whichever happens first). If you get COBRA or retiree benefits after you stop working, keep in mind that this doesn’t count as coverage based on current employment; make sure you don’t wait until your COBRA benefits end to enroll in Medicare Part B.

Remember that if you do not enroll in Medicare Part B during your Special Enrollment Period, you’ll have to wait until the next General Enrollment Period, which occurs from January 1 to March 31 each year. You may then have to pay a late-enrollment penalty for Medicare Part B because you could have had Part B and did not enroll. If you owe a late-enrollment penalty, you’ll pay a 10% higher premium for every 12-month period that you were eligible for Medicare Part B but didn’t sign up for it. You may have to pay this higher premium for as long as you’re enrolled in Medicare.

There are a few other situations when you may be able to delay Medicare Part B without paying a late-enrollment penalty. For example, if you were volunteering overseas or if you were living out of the country when you turned 65 and weren’t eligible for Social Security benefits, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period when you return to the United States. The length of your SEP will depend on your situation. If you aren’t sure if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, call Medicare to confirm at 1-800-633-4227 (TTY users 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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