Better sign up for Medicare Part B

If you missed your original Medicare deadline, your

If you missed your original Medicare deadline, your next chance to sign up is Medicare's general enrollment between Jan. 1, 2014, and March 31, for coverage starting July 1. (Credit: iStock)

Retirement

I'm almost 67 and I work full-time for a company with fewer than 20 employees. I'm enrolled in Medicare Part A, but am currently covered under my company's health plan. With all the Affordable Care Act changes, must I do anything differently in 2014?

 

The Affordable Care Act's only impact on people 65 and older is to expand Medicare benefits by adding free preventive care and cancer screenings, and to reduce out-of-pocket charges for prescription drugs.

But a much older rule does require you to change coverage.

When your employer has fewer than 20 workers, Medicare generally becomes your primary insurer at age 65. Indeed, when your employer's health insurer realizes you're eligible for Medicare, it can -- and usually does -- stop paying for any medical expenses that are covered by Medicare. That's why anyone who's actively working for a company with fewer than 20 employees should sign up for both Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) and Medicare Part B (doctors' office visits) no later than three months after turning 65. If you don't, you risk a temporary loss of primary coverage and a permanently higher Medicare premium.

Unfortunately, this enrollment deadline is very easy to miss because you don't get a Medicare heads-up from the government unless you're already collecting Social Security. And employers sometimes tell older workers that the group plan at work covers them until they leave the job, not realizing that that's only true for firms with 20 or more workers. (At companies employing 20 or more, the Medicare enrollment deadline for people 65 and older is 8 months after leaving the job.)

The bottom line If you missed your original Medicare deadline, your next chance to sign up is Medicare's general enrollment between Jan. 1 and March 31, for coverage starting July 1.

Websites with more information bit.ly/WfBVkG and bit.ly/159BKgy