Your Social Security Advisor

Declining Medicare Part B – Ask Rusty

social security benefits medicare RustyDear Rusty: Perhaps you could do an article about deferring Medicare Part B. I never found a way to formally “defer” part B, so apparently, we just ignore it if we have other qualified health insurance. I turned 65 in January but am still fully employed with qualified medical insurance. I became aware of the potential penalties for not enrolling in Medicare correctly, but despite my best efforts it still came out wrong for me. In my research I found I could defer Part B but that it would be good to get the deferral on record (somehow) when we enroll in part A. I created an account online and signed up. I had to bring some paperwork to the SS office and while there I brought up the Part B deferral. I was told that I was “all set” but a few weeks later I got a bill for Part B, so I had to take time off and go straighten it out at the SS office. I never did find anything online about “how to formally defer Medicare B.” Signed:  Working Still

Dear Working:  It’s a fact that many more people are continuing to work past age 65 and have no need to enroll in Medicare Part B because they continue to have group healthcare coverage through their employer. So long as that employer coverage is “creditable”, you can decline Part B until your employer coverage ends, and thus avoid the Part B premium (2018 base premium is $134/month). Although Medicare and Social Security are two separate agencies, they are inextricably linked since the Social Security Administration handles Medicare enrollment and administers premium payments. Though Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) is usually free and should be taken at age 65, Medicare Part B (doctors & outpatient services) is optional because there is a premium associated with it. For this reason, it may be declined and so long as one has “creditable” healthcare coverage there will be no penalty for enrolling in Part B later (“creditable” coverage is an employer group health plan for at least 20 employees). Not having creditable Part B coverage after age 65 will result in a lifetime late enrollment penalty when it is eventually taken. So how does one decline Part B?

If you are already receiving early Social Security benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare A & B when you turn 65. If you do not want Part B because you still have creditable group coverage from your employer, when you get your Medicare enrollment package for Parts A & B it will include a page to which your new Medicare card will be attached. To indicate that you want to decline Part B, the back side of that page has a spot to specify that you wish to decline Part B. That intent should be so marked, and the page returned to Social Security in the postage-paid envelope provided. If someone is not yet collecting Social Security benefits when they enroll in Medicare at age 65, the option to decline Part B is given as part of the application process, both online and in-office (Part A should be taken because it is free, and also because it’s required to collect Social Security after age 65). Declining Part B during the application process or by returning your preference via US mail should normally resolve the matter. However, as with any agency as big as the Social Security Administration or Medicare, timeliness of processing could be an issue and mistakes can be made, and that is what appears to have happened in your case. But either of the methods described above should normally work fine when you wish to decline Medicare Part B coverage.

 

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at [email protected].

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William Martin
1 year ago

Hi, I am 57 and on social security disability and I receive a check. They sent me a card saying that I have atomically been enrolled and it will start on 1/1/20 If I don’t want the plan B will I be penalized if I decline and just keep my market insurance and wait until I turn 65 or do I have to take it and pay the 134.00 a month ?

Rod
3 years ago

I am a federal retiree, so at age 65 do my federal health benefits continue? Or do I go on Medicare coverage? Do I have the option of not selecting part B?

wolverine70
3 years ago
Reply to  Rod

Your FEHB benefits will continue, provided that you continue to enroll each open season and pay the premium. You don’t have to enroll in Part B, but if you don’t and later decide you want Part B, you will have to pay the penalty. Many FEHB plans, like GEHA, will waive your deductible and co-insurance if you enroll in Part B and it becomes your primary insurance. It might be a good idea for you to enroll in Part B. Not knowing which FEHB plan you have its hard to offer specifics. Be sure to enroll in Part A since you already paid for it, and ensure it is the primary for any hospitalization you have even if you don’t enroll in Part B.

Tom Basham
3 years ago

Does having VA benefits count the same as a creditable employer?

wolverine70
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Basham

No. If you just have VA and decline Medicare Part B, and later decide you want it, you’ll be subject to the penalty for delaying enrollment.

Walter
2 years ago
Reply to  wolverine70

I’m in the same boat and have spoken with SSA, Medicare and the VA. The bottom line is you CAN decline part B coverage and keep your VA healthcare benefits as your only healthcare coverage. VA counts as adequate coverage for Affordable Care Act required coverage. If you are under 65, you can later enroll in Medicare at age 65 with NO penalty.

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