A correspondent in another state recently saw this post on social media: “It’s all about control! Do you know they will not let you be on Medicare unless you receive the vaccine!! That is how they will get us to receive the vaccine.”
She knew that to be false, of course. But she was surprised that none of the next 15 posts suggested that the supposed requirement was untrue.
With so much misinformation and so many scams, it’s no surprise Medicare is subject to it. Medicare has issued these scam alerts to beneficiaries:
•You cannot pay to put your name on a list to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
•You cannot pay to get early access to the vaccine.
•You should never share personal or financial information with someone who calls, texts or e-mails promising access to the vaccine for a fee.
Medicare also offers these reminders:
•Medicare will not ask you for personal information unless you have given advance permission.
•Medicare will never call to sell you something.
•Never give your Medicare number to someone who calls with a promise to give you something.
•Medicare will never visit you at home, and you cannot enroll in Medicare over the phone unless you have called first.
To make an appointment with a Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) volunteer counselor, or to ask a question to be answered here, please see the end of this column.
Q. You’ve written about penalties that are levied against Medicare beneficiaries for enrolling late. What are the penalties, and what do they cost?
Lifetime late-enrollment penalties may be levied if a person 65 or older fails to enroll on time in Medicare Part B or in insurance for prescription drugs.
Neither enrollment is necessary, though, for people who have evidence of continuous employment-related insurance coverage that Medicare views as creditable. COBRA insurance doesn’t qualify. If a veteran has drug coverage through the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department, that is considered creditable.
The penalty for failing to enroll in coverage for prescription drugs is 1% of the 2021 national premium of $33.06 times the number of months the individual was uninsured. Medicare’s website has an example of a person without drug insurance for 31 months facing a lifetime monthly penalty of $10.30. The penalty changes annually as the premium changes.
The penalty for enrolling late in Part B of Medicare is costlier. For each 12-month period during which you should have been enrolled, you will pay a penalty of 10% of the Part B premium for that year. For example, not having Part B during the 12 months of 2020 could result in a lifetime late-enrollment penalty exceeding $14 a month.
The Part D late-enrollment penalty is waived if you have an income-related benefit called Extra Help or Low Income Subsidy. However, the Part B late-enrollment penalty is waived only if your limited income makes you eligible to have the State of Oregon pay the Part B premium.
Q. Some Medicare Advantage insurance plans don’t charge a premium. Are these plans mostly for people who can’t afford to pay a premium?
Zero-premium insurance is a boon to people with limited incomes. But you might be surprised how many retirees with relatively high incomes enroll in these plans. They are often people in good health. If later they experience poor health they may change to costlier, more robust insurance during annual open enrollment, Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
Jim Sellers of Salem is a certified Medicare counselor with the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program. To ask a question to be answered in this column, e-mail [email protected] To schedule a free SHIBA phone appointment with a volunteer Medicare counselor, call 800-722-4134.