Medicare Open Enrollment
by Elizabeth Q. Boehmcke, Esq.
The annual enrollment period for Medicare ended on December 7 for 2015 Medicare coverage. During that period, you were able to freely switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage (or vice versa), change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, and change from one Medicare Part D plan to another. But what happens if you missed the annual enrollment period and want to make some changes? What if you did not sign up for Medicare when you first became eligible and now need to utilize Medicare?
Changes to your Current Medicare Plans after the Annual Enrollment Period
Between January 1 and February 14, you can leave your Medicare Advantage plan and return to original Medicare (Parts A and B). After you leave your Medicare Advantage plan, you will have until February 14 to enroll in a Medicare Part D (prescription plan) plan. Coverage begins the first day of the month after the month in which you enroll. What if you want to change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or move to a Medicare Advantage plan from original Medicare? You may be able to make such changes if you move, lose your current coverage, Medicare terminates your plan’s contract, or certain other special circumstances. However, absent any of these special circumstances, you will need to wait for the next annual enrollment period, which begins October 15. Visit www.medicare.gov for an easy to understand explanation of these special circumstances that will allow for a special enrollment period.
Signing Up for Medicare After Initial Enrollment Period
Most people first become eligible for Medicare by turning 65 (although there are other circumstances, such as long-term disability, which may allow you to qualify for Medicare early). There is a seven-month period beginning 3 months before you turn 65 and ending 3 months after you turn 65 which is your Initial Enrollment Period for Parts A and B. Coverage begins on the first day of the month in which you turn 65 (unless your birthday is the first of the month, in which case coverage begins on the first of the prior month) If you did not sign up for original Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) when you were first eligible, you may do so between January 1 and March 31. However, coverage does not begin until July 1 and you may be subject to a late enrollment penalty for either or both Part A and Part B..
Most people are eligible for premium-free Part A because they paid Medicare taxes for at least ten years while working and thus there is no penalty for late enrollment. However, if applicable because you did not pay Medicare taxes for the required ten years, the Medicare Part A penalty is 10% of the monthly premium and you have to pay the higher premium for twice the number of years that you could have had Part A but did not.
The Medicare Part B penalty is 10% of the premium for each 12-month period that you were eligible for Part B but not enrolled and continues for so long as you have Part B. Why might you not have signed up for Medicare Part B when you first became eligible at age 65? Perhaps you or your spouse were still working and you were covered by an employer group health plan. In that case, you have 8 months from the termination of that employer-based coverage to sign up for Part B without penalty. Active-duty service members do not need Part B to keep TRICARE coverage, but only while on active duty. However, you must have Part B to keep your TRICARE without interruption when active duty ends. If you have missed your special enrollment window, your only opportunity to enroll in Part B is January 1 – March 31.
If you are approaching your 65th birthday and still working or on active duty, you may wish to consult with one of the attorneys at Hook Law Center to help you avoid late enrollment penalties when you transition to Medicare.
Ask Kit Kat – The Bear & Boy Scout Leader
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the bear who pulled a Boy Scout leader by his foot into a cave?
Kit Kat: Well, this is truly unique, and it occurred in New Jersey, one of the most densely populated states! This caught my mom’s eye, because it occurred in Morris County, NJ where she grew up. It happened like this. A Boy Scout leader named Christopher Petronino was hiking in the Split Rock Reservoir in Morris County in northern New Jersey. Suddenly, he was showing the scouts a cave, and a bear reached out and dragged him into the cave. He had a rock hammer, and he used that to hit the bear in the head. When that didn’t completely disable him, Petronino curled into a ball, and played dead, after yelling to the scouts to leave and get help.
The scouts used a cell phone, and they got through to an emergency dispatcher who instructed them to try to lure the bear out of the cave with any food they might have available. By the time the bear emerged from the cave, a dog had been attracted to the scene. Its barking frightened the bear away. Petronino was not seriously hurt, but nevertheless he was airlifted to Morristown Medical Center (where my mom was a Candy Striper during high school) and treated for his injuries. Petronino said he had been to this area several times for decades, and he had never even seen a bear. Bob Considine, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection, thinks the bear was probably protecting its hibernation spot. Traps have been set, and it is hoped the bear can be caught.
New Jersey actually has quite a few bears on the loose, and hunting them is now legal at certain times of the year. This year 510 bears were killed during the season which ended December 19, 2015. 58 of these were from Morris County! Who would have thought it in this lovely, rolling suburban county! (http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/bear-pulls-boy-scout-leader-into-cave-by-foot-scouts-unhurt) (12-21-15)
- January 14th, 2016 – Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro will be speaking at The Terrace at Beth Shalom Village in Virginia Beach for their residents.
- January 20th, 2016 – Andrew H. Hook and Elizabeth Q. Boehmcke will be speaking on “Protecting Assets from Nursing Homes and Medicaid” at Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4453 Bonney Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23462.
- January 21st, 2016 – Andrew H. Hook and Elizabeth Q. Boehmcke will be speaking on “Protecting Assets from Nursing Homes and Medicaid” at Hilton Gardin Inn, 5921 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk, VA 23435.
- January 22nd, 2016 – 126th Annual Meeting of the Virginia Bar Association in Williamsburg. Andrew H. Hook, Natalie Hale, and Stephanie Washington will be presenting a CLE on “Keeping Mom (or Dad) at Home Aging in Place With CBC, PACE, VA Benefits, and Reverse Mortgages.”
- February 15th, 2016 – Stephan J. Lipskis will be speaking on “Protecting the Money You Leave to Your Children from Their Divorce” at Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4453 Bonney Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23462.
- February 16th, 2016 – Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro is presenting on Veteran’s Aid and Attendance again with the Crossings at Independence at 10am. Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4453 Bonney Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23462.
- February 18th, 2016 – Stephan J. Lipskis will be speaking on “Protecting the Money You Leave to Your Children from Their Divorce” at Hilton Gardin Inn, 5921 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk, VA 23435.
- February 20th, 2016 – Andrew H. Hook is traveling to Charlottesville for the 2016 UnProgram with VAELA. He will be giving a presentation on Advance Medicaid Planning Strategies, as well as addressing nuances of gifting by Power of Attorney.
- February 23rd, 2016 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking on Long-Term Care Planning at The Crossings of Harbour View at 10AM.
- March 5th, 2016 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking at the SNA Meeting in Hawaii on “Residential Planning for the Adult Disabled Child of an Elder or Decedent.”
- March 14th, 2016 – Elizabeth Q. Boehmcke will be speaking on “Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance” at Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4453 Bonney Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23462.
- March 15th, 2016 – Elizabeth Q. Boehmcke will be speaking on “Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance” at Hilton Gardin Inn, 5921 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk, VA 23435.
- March 16th, 2016 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking at the Hampton Roads Chapter Enrollment Society Meeting about Trust and Decedent’s Estate taxation issues.
- March 24th, 2016 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking on Long-Term Care Planning at The Crossings of Harbour View at 10AM.
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