Search Articles

Find Attorneys

Congress Fixes Some, But Not All, Medicare Enrollment Problems

  • April 29th, 2021

Tucked in the federal spending bill that passed at the end of December 2020 are some changes aimed at simplifying Medicare enrollment and addressing coverage gaps. But Congress chose not to deal with the biggest problem.

Currently, Medicare enrollment begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday and continues for three months after your birthday month (for a total of seven months). Medicare Part A has no premiums, but if you do not enroll in Medicare Part B or Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) during the initial enrollment period, you will face penalties (with exceptions; read on). For example, your Medicare Part B premium may go up 10 percent for each 12-month period that you could have had Medicare Part B, but did not take it.  (You can delay signing up for Part B and Part D without penalty for a number of reasons, including if you have valid coverage through an employer with 20 or more employees that you still work for, or, in the case of Part D, you have private insurance that is at least as good as Medicare’s. Check with your employer or insurer to find out whether you can safely delay enrolling.) 

Local Elder Law Attorneys in Your City

Elder Law Attorney

Firm Name
City, State

Elder Law Attorney

Firm Name
City, State

Elder Law Attorney

Firm Name
City, State

In addition, if you fail to enroll during the seven-month initial enrollment period, you will have to wait for the general enrollment period, which usually runs between January 1 and March 31 of each year. If you enroll during the general enrollment period, your coverage does not start until July 1. This means that you may have to wait up to seven months before you can get Medicare coverage. And, to make matters even more confusing, the general enrollment period for Part B is different from the enrollment period for Part D and Medicare Advantage plans. 

Congress has now taken a stab at ending these coverage gaps and clearing up some of the confusion. Under the new law, starting in 2023, whether you enroll during your initial enrollment period or you enroll during the general enrollment period, Medicare coverage will begin the month after enrollment. The law also allows Medicare to make exceptions for people who delay enrollment because of an “exceptional circumstance,” such as a natural disaster. Finally, the new law directs the federal government to align the Medicare Part B, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D enrollment periods by 2023.

While these changes will help eliminate coverage gaps, there are still problems. As tax and retirement policy expert Howard Gleckman points out, Medicare beneficiaries often miss the initial enrollment period because they are not aware of it. An earlier version of the law would have required the Social Security Administration to send notifications to individuals who are turning 65 to alert them of their eligibility for Medicare, but that provision was dropped from the final version. 

For more information about Medicare enrollment, click here


Last Modified: 04/29/2021

ADVERTISEMENT
Medicaid 101
What Medicaid Covers

In addition to nursing home care, Medicaid may cover home care and some care in an assisted living facility. Coverage in your state may depend on waivers of federal rules.

READ MORE
How to Qualify for Medicaid

To be eligible for Medicaid long-term care, recipients must have limited incomes and no more than $2,000 (in most states). Special rules apply for the home and other assets.

READ MORE
Medicaid’s Protections for Spouses

Spouses of Medicaid nursing home residents have special protections to keep them from becoming impoverished.

READ MORE
What Medicaid Covers

In addition to nursing home care, Medicaid may cover home care and some care in an assisted living facility. Coverage in your state may depend on waivers of federal rules.

READ MORE
How to Qualify for Medicaid

To be eligible for Medicaid long-term care, recipients must have limited incomes and no more than $2,000 (in most states). Special rules apply for the home and other assets.

READ MORE
Medicaid’s Protections for Spouses

Spouses of Medicaid nursing home residents have special protections to keep them from becoming impoverished.

READ MORE
Medicaid Planning Strategies

Careful planning for potentially devastating long-term care costs can help protect your estate, whether for your spouse or for your children.

READ MORE
Estate Recovery: Can Medicaid Take My House After I’m Gone?

If steps aren't taken to protect the Medicaid recipient's house from the state’s attempts to recover benefits paid, the house may need to be sold.

READ MORE
Help Qualifying and Paying for Medicaid, Or Avoiding Nursing Home Care

There are ways to handle excess income or assets and still qualify for Medicaid long-term care, and programs that deliver care at home rather than in a nursing home.

READ MORE
Are Adult Children Responsible for Their Parents’ Care?

Most states have laws on the books making adult children responsible if their parents can't afford to take care of themselves.

READ MORE
Applying for Medicaid

Applying for Medicaid is a highly technical and complex process, and bad advice can actually make it more difficult to qualify for benefits.

READ MORE
Alternatives to Medicaid

Medicare's coverage of nursing home care is quite limited. For those who can afford it and who can qualify for coverage, long-term care insurance is the best alternative to Medicaid.

READ MORE
ElderLaw 101
Estate Planning

Distinguish the key concepts in estate planning, including the will, the trust, probate, the power of attorney, and how to avoid estate taxes.

READ MORE
Grandchildren

Learn about grandparents’ visitation rights and how to avoid tax and public benefit issues when making gifts to grandchildren.

READ MORE
Guardianship/Conservatorship

Understand when and how a court appoints a guardian or conservator for an adult who becomes incapacitated, and how to avoid guardianship.

READ MORE
Health Care Decisions

We need to plan for the possibility that we will become unable to make our own medical decisions. This may take the form of a health care proxy, a medical directive, a living will, or a combination of these.

READ MORE
Estate Planning

Distinguish the key concepts in estate planning, including the will, the trust, probate, the power of attorney, and how to avoid estate taxes.

READ MORE
Grandchildren

Learn about grandparents’ visitation rights and how to avoid tax and public benefit issues when making gifts to grandchildren.

READ MORE
Guardianship/Conservatorship

Understand when and how a court appoints a guardian or conservator for an adult who becomes incapacitated, and how to avoid guardianship.

READ MORE
Health Care Decisions

We need to plan for the possibility that we will become unable to make our own medical decisions. This may take the form of a health care proxy, a medical directive, a living will, or a combination of these.

READ MORE
Long-Term Care Insurance

Understand the ins and outs of insurance to cover the high cost of nursing home care, including when to buy it, how much to buy, and which spouse should get the coverage.

READ MORE
Medicare

Learn who qualifies for Medicare, what the program covers, all about Medicare Advantage, and how to supplement Medicare’s coverage.

READ MORE
Retirement Planning

We explain the five phases of retirement planning, the difference between a 401(k) and an IRA, types of investments, asset diversification, the required minimum distribution rules, and more.

READ MORE
Senior Living

Find out how to choose a nursing home or assisted living facility, when to fight a discharge, the rights of nursing home residents, all about reverse mortgages, and more.

READ MORE
Social Security

Get a solid grounding in Social Security, including who is eligible, how to apply, spousal benefits, the taxation of benefits, how work affects payments, and SSDI and SSI.

READ MORE
Special Needs Planning

Learn how a special needs trust can preserve assets for a person with disabilities without jeopardizing Medicaid and SSI, and how to plan for when caregivers are gone.

READ MORE
Veterans Benefits

Explore benefits for older veterans, including the VA’s disability pension benefit, aid and attendance, and long-term care coverage for veterans and surviving spouses.

READ MORE