Medicare parts B, D — when and where?

When I turned 65, I enrolled in Medicare.  I did not sign up for Part B (doctor services) or Part D (drugs), because I am still in my spouse’s group plan, and that plan covers those things.  Did I do the right thing?  If I drop out of my spouse’s plan, he would have less money taken from his paycheck but won’t I have to buy a Medicare drug plan?

Figuring Out What’s What

Dear Figuring Out,

You are on the right track.  Because you have drugs covered by your spouse’s plan, you can postpone buying a separate Medicare drug plan.  As long as your spouse’s plan is deemed “creditable”, you can stay on that plan and not buy a “Part D” plan.  “Creditable” means that it meets government standards; though it would rare that a plan would not be “creditable,” you may want to call the number on the back of your ID card and confirm.

Assuming your spouse’s plan meets the standards, you are all set and do not have to buy a Part D plan.  At some point, you will lose that plan – either your spouse will retire or change jobs or whatever.  After the month your group plan ends, you will then have two months to buy a Part D plan.  If you wait longer than two months, you will have to pay extra for your Part D plan.  The late enrollment penalty equals one percent of the “national base beneficiary premium” ($31.08 in 2012) times the number of full, uncovered months you had no drug plan.  A six-month delay would cost you around $2.00 a month extra.

Since you have your spouse’s plan, you also do not have to enroll in Medicare Part B, which covers physician services.  Once your spouse’s plan ends, you have eight months to sign up for Part B.  Waiting any longer will put you into paying extra, just like with Part D.  The penalty for late enrollment is ten percent.  Part B costs around $115 per month.

To decide whether to drop out of your spouse’s plan, compare how much he is paying from his paycheck to what you would pay for Part B and Part D.  Keep in mind that the money from his paycheck is not getting taxed; the money you pay for your Part B and Part D will be taxed.

A great source of information about Medicare enrollment is the website.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.