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On Medicare: Terminating his Part B led to big problem

Dear Toni: Five years ago, when I was laid off, I enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when I turned 65 in August. By November, I had found a new job with benefits and terminated my Medicare Part B. In October 2023, I finally retired. After filing my Social Security forms, I discovered that I was denied enrollment because I had a past due bill of $405, from when I was enrolled in Part B, which was never paid.

Please alert your readers about terminating Medicare Part B and what happens when you do not pay the premium. I do not remember ever receiving a bill from Medicare. My Medicare Part B is being issued Feb. 1 and I will have a Part B and D penalty. — Greg from Spring, Texas

Dear Greg: Medicare does allow those turning 65 with employer benefits to delay Part B enrollment without a penalty when you want to enroll in Medicare later.

Readers, if you find yourself in Greg’s situation, Social Security should interview you to terminate Parts A or B by phone or in person. Tell the representative that you are covered by an employer’s group health coverage and made a mistake by enrolling in Medicare. You will need to file a Request to Terminate form. (When mailing forms to Social Security, always make copies, send them by priority mail and ask to receive a signed copy when received.)

While talking with the Social Security agent, ask to view your account to verify whether you owe any back premiums. Be sure to pay off the past due premiums.

Here are Medicare enrollment situations to consider:

A working spouse: If the working spouse is providing health insurance benefits from their employer’s group health coverage, then you may want to delay enrolling in Medicare Part B. You may continue to work part time or as self-employed while under the coverage provided by your working spouse.

Self-employed: If you are turning 65, not covered under an employer’s group health plan and waited to enroll in Medicare Part B, then you can receive a 10 percent penalty for each 12-month period that you were not enrolled in Part B when turning 65.

Past 65 and still working: Verify with your (or your spouse’s) employer’s human resources department if you should delay enrolling in Part B because you (or your spouse) are still working and are on an employer group health plan.

As soon as you will no longer be covered by an employer group health plan, have your HR department fill out Social Security forms CMS-L564, Request for Employment Information, and CMS-40B, Application for Medicare Part B. File the forms to justify your enrollment delay and avoid needless penalties.

Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. If you have a Medicare question, email info@tonisays.com or call 832-519-8664.

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