Insurance Health Insurance Medicare Late Enrollment Penalties How and when to sign up—and save By Meredith Mangan Meredith Mangan Meredith Mangan is a senior editor for The Balance, focusing on insurance product reviews. She brings to the job 15 years of experience in finance, media, and financial markets. Prior to her editing career, Meredith was a licensed financial advisor and a licensed insurance agent in accident and health, variable, and life contracts. Meredith also spent five years as the managing editor for Money Crashers. learn about our editorial policies Updated on October 23, 2022 Reviewed by Samantha Silberstein Reviewed by Samantha Silberstein Twitter Samantha Silberstein is a Certified Financial Planner, FINRA Series 7 and 63 licensed holder, State of California Life, Accident, and Health Insurance Licensed Agent, and CFA. She spends her days working with hundreds of employees from non-profit and higher education organizations on their personal financial plans. learn about our financial review board Fact checked by David Rubin Fact checked by David Rubin Facebook Instagram Twitter David J. Rubin is a fact checker for The Balance with more than 30 years in editing and publishing. The majority of his experience lies within the legal and financial spaces. At legal publisher Matthew Bender & Co./LexisNexis, he was a manager of R&D, programmer analyst, and senior copy editor. learn about our editorial policies In This Article View All In This Article Medicare Parts Part A Late Enrollment Part B Late Enrollment Part C Late Enrollment Part D Late Enrollment Medigap Late Enrollment Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Photo: Aldomurillo / Getty Images When you turn 65, you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare. Most people get Part A (hospital insurance) for free. However, Part B (medical insurance), Part D (prescription drug coverage), and Medigap (supplemental coverage) aren’t free. If you or your spouse are covered under another plan, you may be wondering if you have to enroll, when you should, and which parts to enroll in. If you plan to enroll in Parts A and B (or already are), you may be wondering if and when you should get a Part D prescription drug plan, a Medigap policy, or if you should bundle your Medicare coverage in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C). Learn how Medicare late enrollment penalties work, which Medicare parts they apply to, and how to avoid paying them. Key Takeaways You’re only eligible to enroll in the different parts of Medicare during designated annual enrollment periods.If you miss enrolling during your initial enrollment period, you could face late enrollment penalties for Parts A, B, and D.Enrollment penalties for Parts B and D are added to your premium for life and increase the longer you go without coverage.If you have coverage through your employer (or your spouse’s), you may qualify for a special enrollment period during which you can sign up for Medicare without penalty. Medicare Parts Medicare coverage is delivered in a few different ways, via “parts,” specifically: Part A: Hospital insurance, which covers inpatient hospital care, hospice care, and short-term home health and skilled nursing care. Part A and Part B together are referred to as “Original Medicare.”Part B: Medical insurance, which covers medically necessary services, such as doctor’s visits, diagnostic services and treatments, and preventive services.Part C: Also known as Medicare Advantage or MA plans, Part C is an optional way to receive your Part A and B benefits. Both are required to get a Medicare Advantage plan. Many MA plans include prescription drug coverage, along with some vision, hearing, and dental services.Part D: Prescription drug coverage; these plans are optional if you have Part A or Part B. Alternately, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan to receive prescription drug benefits.Medigap: Also referred to as Medicare supplement plans or supplement insurance, Medigap helps pay copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for an additional premium. What Are Medicare Late Enrollment Penalties? There are several reasons to enroll in Medicare during your initial enrollment period, such as avoiding a coverage gap. However, one of the most compelling reasons is to avoid late enrollment penalties. Note Those who tried to enroll in Medicare in 2022 have a special extended deadline due to phone issues at the Social Security Administration. The extended deadline runs through Dec. 30, 2022. Eligible health care services throughout 2022 can be retroactively covered by Medicare after signing up. Call 800-772-1213 for more information. Medicare late enrollment penalties aren’t one-time fees, and some are permanently affixed to your premium; plus, Part A (if you’re not eligible for premium-free Part A), Part B, and Part D all have them. And while Medigap doesn’t have a late enrollment penalty, per se, you could end up paying a lot more or even be denied a policy if you want one after your Medigap open enrollment period expires. Keep in mind that you can’t just enroll in the different parts of Medicare whenever you want. There are specific enrollment periods, including but not limited to: Initial enrollment: Your initial enrollment period begins three months before the month in which you turn 65 and ends three months after; it lasts a total of seven months. Special enrollment: This is another initial enrollment period triggered by special circumstances, such as losing your current coverage or moving. If you qualify for a special enrollment period, you may be able to sign up for Medicare after the initial enrollment period without facing penalties. General enrollment: If you didn’t sign up during your initial enrollment period, you can enroll in Medicare during the general enrollment period from Jan. 1 to March 31 each year. Open enrollment: You can’t sign up for Part B during Medicare’s open enrollment period, but you can sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage if you didn’t during your initial enrollment period. Open enrollment is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. Medigap open enrollment: This period begins the first month you have Part B (and are at least 65) and lasts for six months. This is the only period when insurers cannot rate your policy (charge an additional premium) or deny you one due to health problems or preexisting conditions. Part A Late Enrollment Part A is the hospital insurance portion of Medicare. If you’re eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A, you can enroll at any time without penalty. However, if you’re required to pay for Part A, you could face a late enrollment penalty if you don’t enroll when you’re first eligible and if you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period. Note If you receive Social Security benefits at least four months before you turn 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in both Parts A and B of Medicare. In many cases, if a health insurance plan currently covers you through your or your spouse’s work, you can enroll in Part A (and Part B) after your initial enrollment period ends. You can do so at any time before you lose your current coverage or within eight months after the month in which you lose that coverage or quit your job, whichever occurs first. If you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you’ll pay a 10% premium increase penalty that lasts for twice the number of years you went without coverage. So if you went without coverage for three years, you’d have to pay the penalty (on top of your regular premium) for six years. Part B Late Enrollment Part B of Medicare is the portion that covers medical insurance: think doctor’s visits and diagnostic and preventive services. If you don’t sign up when you’re first eligible and don’t have other health insurance coverage, you will probably face a lifetime late enrollment penalty. This means your Part B premium can increase 10% for each 12-month period you went without coverage for as long as you have Part B. If you have other health insurance—through work or your spouse, for example—you may qualify for a special enrollment period and be able to delay signing up for Part B without penalty. Note If you have coverage through COBRA, you won’t be eligible for a special enrollment period once that coverage ends. To avoid a gap in coverage and the late enrollment penalty, sign up for Medicare as soon as you’re eligible. However, if you work for an employer with fewer than 20 employees or where not everyone has health coverage, you may still want to sign up during your initial enrollment period. Ask if your insurance is “employer group health plan coverage”; if it’s not, you should sign up for Part B to avoid the penalty. Part C Late Enrollment There’s no late enrollment penalty for Part C, also called Medicare Advantage plans. Part C is a plan that lets you receive your Parts A and B benefits. It often incorporates prescription drug coverage as well. You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the Medicare open enrollment each year, as long as you have Parts A and B. Even though there’s no late enrollment penalty for Part C, Part A and B are both required to sign up for a plan. So if you sign up for those plans late, you’ll still face a penalty. Part D Late Enrollment You’re eligible to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan as soon as you enroll in Part A or Part B. Alternately, you can get drug coverage via a Medicare Advantage plan, which is also known as Part C. Note If you have a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage, you can later switch to original Medicare (Parts A and B) and a Part D prescription drug plan during the annual open enrollment period (or the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period)—without penalty. You could face a lifetime late enrollment penalty for a Part D plan if: You don’t get prescription drug coverage via Part D or Medicare AdvantageYou don’t have “creditable” drug coverage (prescription coverage through some employers, for instance) Medicare doesn’t want you to be without drug coverage that doesn’t pay, on average, what a Medicare-approved drug plan would pay. This is what is meant by “creditable” coverage. If you go without creditable drug coverage for 63 or more days in a row, a late enrollment penalty will be permanently affixed to your Part D premium once you do enroll. The penalty increases the longer you go without coverage and is calculated as follows: 1% x the “national base beneficiary premium” x the number of months you didn’t have creditable coverage (rounded to the nearest $0.10) This “national base beneficiary premium” is $32.74 for 2023 ($33.37 for 2022). For example, if you went 48 months without creditable drug coverage, the amount added to your monthly Part D premium would be $15.70 (which is 1% x $32.74 x 48, rounded to the nearest $0.10, in 2023). Medigap Late Enrollment Medigap doesn’t have an explicit “late enrollment penalty,” but there’s only one period of time during which insurance companies won’t consider your health when pricing your Medigap policy. That period is the Medigap open enrollment period, and it’s triggered on the first day of the month in which you are at least 65 and are enrolled in Part B. Note It’s illegal for a company to sell you a Medigap policy if you have a Medicare Advantage plan unless you’re switching back to Original Medicare. You have six months until the period expires from the first month you’re enrolled in Part B (and also have Part A). If you choose to wait and purchase Medigap later, you could pay a much higher rate or be denied coverage altogether. The Bottom Line Determining when to enroll in Medicare can be tricky. However, it makes sense to sign up as soon as you’re eligible. If you do have other coverage, make sure your prescription drug coverage is considered “creditable” according to Medicare’s standards so you can avoid the late enrollment penalty for Part D. To help decide based on your circumstances, consult the Medicare sign-up tool. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) How long does the Medicare Part B penalty last? The late enrollment penalty for Medicare Part B lasts for as many years as you delayed enrolling. For example, if you signed up for Medicare Part B two years after your initial opportunity to enroll, then you'll pay a 10% penalty for two years. Is there a penalty for not signing up for Medicare? You can refuse Medicare, but most people should at least enroll in Part A coverage. Many people don't pay premiums for Part A, so it's worth enrolling, even if you're covered by another insurer. If you refuse Part A, then you won't see any benefit from the Medicare taxes you paid throughout your working life, but there isn't a specific penalty for it. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Pages 9-10, 75. Social Security Administration. "Equitable Relief for Medicare Enrollment and Disenrollment." Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Pages 13, 17-18, 22-23, 71, 77, 83. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Page 22. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Deciding Whether To Enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B When You Turn 65," Page 8. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Deciding Whether To Enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B When You Turn 65," Page 4. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Pages 17-18, 23. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Page 18. Medicare.gov. "Working Past 65." Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Pages 61-63, 72. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Pages 79-80. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Pages 71-72. Medicare.gov. "Part D Late Enrollment Penalty." Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Page 78. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Medicare & You 2023," Page 77. Medicare.gov. "Avoid Late Enrollment Penalties." Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Fact Sheet: Deciding Whether To Enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B When You Turn 65," Page 2.