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Five big Medicare enrollment mistakes

Be an expert in enrollment

This article was last updated Aug. 25, 2020.

It's no secret that signing up for Medicare can be a little confusing. But, with a little research, you'll be a Medicare expert in no time. While you're learning about all of your options, make sure you stay clear of these five enrollment mistakes.

  1. Missing your enrollment period.

    You may be surprised by how easy it can be to forget to sign up for Medicare at age 65. If you aren’t receiving Social Security benefits before your 65th birthday, you’ll need to take action to sign up for your Medicare coverage. Luckily, you have a seven-month window during your Initial Enrollment Period to get the job done (three months before your 65th birthday, the month of, and three months after). And, you can sign up online at the Social Security Administration website External Site.

    If you do forget to sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period, it could lead to late penalties. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), your monthly premium may go up 10 percent External Site for each 12-month period you could've had Part B, but didn't sign up. You may also be unable to enroll in coverage until the next General Election Period, which happens each year from Jan. 1–March 31. This means you could experience a gap in coverage.

  2. Forgetting to enroll in Part B after leaving your job.

    If you have coverage through your employer, you may not need to sign up for Medicare Part B during your seven-month initial enrollment window. But, within eight months of leaving your job, you should sign up for Part B or you might have to wait until the next general enrollment period (January through March) for coverage beginning the month following enrollment.

    Don’t get caught without coverage! If you miss the original deadline, you’ll have to pay a 10 percent penalty, which lasts your entire life.

  3. Signing up for Medicare Part A if you’d like to keep contributing to your Health Savings Account (HSA).

    Once you sign up for Medicare, you can no longer contribute to your HSA. So, if you have a qualified high deductible health plan and HSA, you may want to delay signing up for Part A and Part B, and keep contributing to your HSA.

    Note: If you’ve already signed up for Social Security or if your employer coverage has fewer than 20 employees, you should sign up for Part A.

  4. Choosing a plan that doesn’t include your doctor.

    With some types of coverage, you may be restricted to the plan’s network of hospitals and doctors. If you see a provider outside the network, you may not have coverage, or you may pay a larger share of the services. Before you choose this type of plan, make sure your doctor is in your plan’s network.

    With Medicare supplement plans, like Wellmark's MedicareBlue SupplementSM, members can see any doctor they want, as long as the doctor accepts Medicare.

  5. Paying more for a plan than you need to.

    If you buy your Medicare supplement plan within six months of your Medicare Part B effective date, you can get any plan in your state without answering any health questions  even if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But, if you switch plans after your initial six months, insurance companies are allowed to ask health questions and charge you more for Medicare supplement coverage based on how you answer certain health questions. So, do your research ahead of time, and save. 

Need to learn the ins and outs of Medicare? We're here to help.

If you live in Iowa or South Dakota, request your free Medicare Get-Ready guide Opens New Window to learn more about the different parts of Medicare, when you’re eligible and your medical, dental and vision coverage options.

If you live outside Iowa or South Dakota, go to ExternalSite or call 888-630-2583 to find a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan near you.

This is a solicitation of insurance. Wellmark MedicareBlue Supplement plans are specific to Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and can only be purchased by Iowa and South Dakota residents, respectively. MedicareBlue Supplement plans are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.