This week I completed Medicare Enrollment for 2021. Hurray! It was complicated, stressful, and the gotchas were not spelled out in the documentation. Honestly, I hadn’t realized how anxious I was about it until the enrollment was completed!

This is only the second time that I’ve needed to go through the angst of Medicare enrollment. Earlier this year I unexpectedly had to go through my first Medicare enrollment under time pressure. Stressful, yes. Life or death, no. I’d be able to change my choice in a few months during the yearly Open Enrollment period (that’s now). So what did I learn that had the potential to make a long-term impact?

Medicare Part A (covers in-patient hospitalization, etc.) is not always free and enrollment is not always automatic. If you have worked and paid into Medicare through payroll taxes for 10 full years (40 business quarters), then you don’t pay monthly premiums for Medicare Part A once you become eligible. However, if you haven’t paid into Medicare for 10 years, then you must enroll in Medicare Part A as soon as you are eligible (usually age 65) or you will pay a penalty in addition to your premium. The penalty payment, which could be as high as 10%, lasts for twice the number of years that you were eligible and failed to enroll. Details are at the Medicare site:

Medicare Part B covers out-patient care (doctor office visits, Urgent Care, etc.). You must enroll at age 65 or when you are no longer covered by an insurance policy through your employer. If you don’t, you will likely pay a penalty in addition to your monthly premium and you will pay that penalty for as long as you are enrolled in Part B. That is a no joke penalty!!! For details, see

Medicare Part D is for prescription drug coverage. Again, you must enroll in a Part D program after you are 65 years old and not covered by other prescription drug insurance. You have 63 days to accomplish this enrollment. If you don’t, you will pay a penalty in addition to your Medicare Part D premium for as long as you have Part D. You can learn the details about this at

These are real financial gotchas that nobody told me. Congratulations to you if you’ve heard about them already. We discovered them on our own during our quest for coverage after my husband lost his job earlier this year. And not at the start of the special enrollment window either. Don’t let this happen to you!

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