By Kay Kaylor
At San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA), I have two main part-time roles. I am the lead long-term care ombudsman, advocating for residents in extended care and assisted living residences in the region. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor. Information on the many aging and care concerns will be included here.
Currently, people who qualify for Medicare are in the middle of a general enrollment period (GEP) that occurs every year from Jan. 1 through March 31 for specific circumstances. In this period, you can sign up for Part A and Part B if you did not sign up when you were first eligible or you are not eligible for a special enrollment period (SEP). Premiums are required for Parts A and B, although Part A is free for those who fulfilled the work requirements and paid Medicare taxes.
Signing up during the GEP means the Medicare will start July 1. Penalties may apply that will increase your premium if you did not have qualified coverage or did not sign up during the SEP when you first turned 65, which is the seven-month period that includes three months before you turn 65, your birthday month and three months after your birthday month.
If you sign up for Medicare during this GEP, you can join a Medicare prescription drug plan from April 1 to June 30 that also will start July 1. A monthly penalty may apply for the rest of the time you have a Part D if you did not have qualified coverage.
Also during this GEP, if you are already in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch back to Original Medicare and choose a drug plan or choose another Advantage plan.
If you have creditable employer insurance after you turn 65 and later retire or give it up, you have an eight-month period to sign up for Part B without a penalty and a two-month period to get a prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan.
Other SEPs exist, such as when you lose Medicaid coverage after age 65 or you move from another region. The Medicare website, medicare.gov, details these periods.
SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call 264-0501 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kay Kaylor