Here’s How Much Waiting To Enroll in Medicare Part B Can Cost You

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Medicare Part B is federally sponsored medical insurance that helps pay for services offered by doctors and other health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment and some preventive services for those aged 65 and older. Medicare is a program generally aimed at reducing the economic cost of health care for more vulnerable populations, and while the Social Security Administration (SSA) processes applications, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers this federally funded program.

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Medicare Part B typically requires supplemental premiums to be paid by the beneficiary. You can enroll in Medicare Part B by paying a monthly premium, although this premium is typically quite low for most people. Some beneficiaries with higher incomes will pay a higher monthly Part B premium.

If you are eligible for Medicare at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65 and ends three months after that birthday. This means there is an approximate seven-month window — beginning three months before your actual birthday, and ending three months following the last date of the month during which you turn 65 — where you can enroll in Medicare.

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How Much Will Waiting to Enroll in Medicare Cost You?

If you choose not to enroll in Medicare Part B and then decide to do so later, the Social Security Administration advises that your coverage could be delayed — and that you might pay a higher monthly premium for as long as you have Part B. In fact, your monthly premium will go up 10% for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but did not sign up for it. 

If you do not enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you have another chance each year to sign up during a “general enrollment period” which runs from January 1 through March 31. Your coverage would then begin on July 1 of the year that you enrolled.

What Is a Special Enrollment Period Concerning Medicare Part B?

The only way to avoid the 10% increase for not signing up for Part B when you were entitled to is by qualifying for a SEP, or “Special Enrollment Period.”

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The SEP applies to people who are aged 65 or older and either personally, or have a spouse, still working — and who are also covered under a group health plan. Based on that current employment, you may not need to apply for part B at the age of 65, and may qualify for a SEP.

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Such circumstances will allow you to sign up for Part B during any month you remain covered under the group health plan — given that your, or your spouse’s, current employment continues — or within the eight-month period starting with the month after your group health plan coverage (or the current employment it is based on) ends, whichever comes first.

For more information on Part B and to see if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, consult the Social Security Administration website.

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 
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