4 Dangers for First-Time Medicare Enrollees

Pitfall No. 1: You miss your Initial Enrollment Period

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Generally, you become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65. But failing to enroll on time can trigger permanent financial penalties — we’ll get to those shortly — or delay benefits.

Medicare gives you a seven-month Initial Enrollment Period, which includes the month you turn 65, the three months before and the three months after.

If you miss that window, you generally must wait to apply during the annual general enrollment period, Medicare.gov says. As a result, you may miss out on coverage for a bit and have to pay higher premiums.

If you are collecting Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you’ll get Medicare automatically, so you don’t need to sign up. The Medicare program will reach out to you.

If you are working when you turn 65 and have medical insurance coverage through your employer, you may be able to keep your employer’s medical plan.

“In most situations, you will be better off keeping your employer health insurance,” writes Phil Moeller, PBS’ “Medicare Maven.”

In any case, proceed carefully. Don’t drop employer coverage before you understand the pros and cons.

Need help? Look up and contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for free one-on-one Medicare counseling.

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