Senior Citizens, Sign Up Now: “Medicare Open Enrollment” Ends March 31

January 29, 2013 in Medicare

OK, I bet you thought “Medicare open enrollment1” for 2013 ended December 7, 2012.

That’s the conventional wisdom.  Actually enrollment time for Original Medicare is now through March 31, 2013 and those who sign up will start receiving their benefits beginning July 1, 2013.  And they’ll start paying their Medicare Part A and/or B premiums (unless qualified for “free” Medicare Part A and/or B) from that point in time forward. And they will start paying their Part A and/or B premium penalty (if due) from that point in time forward.

Actual Original Medicare open enrollment gets minimal publicity because most seniors don’t wait until Medicare open enrollment time to sign up.

Instead they use one of the many special enrollment periods available to them (e.g., the three months either side of their 65th birthday as well as the birthday month itself, the special enrollment period after they “retire” and lose employer sponsored insurance, etc.). A large percentage of people turning 65 do not have to sign up at all because they are already receiving Social Security benefits and are signed up automatically.

There are as many reasons for not signing up for Original Medicare when first eligible as there are bingo players at the senior center on Wednesday mornings but the typical reason is missing the special-enrollment window after retiring. And typically the miss relates only to Part B. (All those reaching age 65 are strongly urged to sign up for Part A if they qualify for “free2 Part A” even if they will continue to work and receive employer sponsored insurance or even if a spouse is still receiving employer sponsored insurance or employer retiree insurance that covers the person turning 65.)

If you fall into this typical category of missing the special retiree enrollment period, you will also most likely pay a slightly higher Part B premium than the standard $104.90 a month as a penalty for not joining the Medicare pool when you could have. If you delayed signing up for years, your penalty could be substantial.


1 There actually is no such thing as Medicare open enrollment.  The period each fall that is commonly called Medicare open enrollment is actually the “annual enrollment period” for Medicare Parts C or D (typically not both). The period that began January 1 and ends March 31 is the “general enrollment period” for Medicare-eligible Americans that have not previously signed up for Original Medicare Parts A and/or B (typically for B).

2 “Free” only if you don’t count the 50 years of Medicare taxes you paid.

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