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Most seniors on Medicare will pay $99.90 per month this year for Part B outpatient coverage. But how would you like to pay 10 percent more for that coverage, or 50 percent more?

As many readers will know, it’s fairly critical to understand the rules for filing for Social Security. Likewise, the rules for filing for Medicare benefits can make or break your retirement. Unfortunately, it’s also fairly easy to forget about the basics of Medicare filing, as a recent article out of Reuters highlights the importance of filing earlier rather than later.

For each full 12-month period that a senior could have had coverage but didn't sign up, the monthly Medicare Part B premium jumps 10 percent. The average monthly cost of Part B coverage is $99.90, so just a few years delinquency will result in $20, $30, or more a month; that adds up, is unnecessary waste, and is permanent.

Suffice it to say that the government really wants you do sign up when it’s time. But why is that difficult? Well, for one, the full retirement age for Social Security is no longer the age for Medicare enrollment. As a result, many otherwise forward-thinking people are waiting until age 67 to enroll in Social Security (for the maximum monthly benefit), but 65 is the age for Medicare.

In addition, with so few people actually leaving the workforce it’s easy to forget (or fail to realize, since you’re not really retired) that it might be time for Medicare. That also can depend on the nature of your employment. For example, if you are still working at age 65 and your employer has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare is the primary payor; at companies with more than 20 workers, the employer's plan is primary. In the latter situation, a senior can postpone filing for Parts A (hospitalization) or Part B, although many choose to enroll for Part A anyway, since it doesn't require premium payments. If you delay your Part B coverage, you can enroll without penalty when you do retire for up to eight months following that point.

The bottom line is to keep all of this on your radar, regardless whether you will be relying on Medicare. In fact, not relying on Medicare may be the source of the problem.

If you are employed it may be worth a visit with the company accountant to be sure on which side of the line the company falls, and therefore what your insurance ought to be like.

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Reference: Reuters (January 20, 2012) “Big penalties await those who delay Medicare filing