Greg Dill
Courtesy: Medicare

This past holiday season, I was in line at the airport counter, waiting to check a bag for my flight to visit family and friends. The gentleman in front of me got frustrated when the customer agent said he had to pay more to check a bag because he hadn’t paid for it online beforehand. I could relate to his irritation because I’d had a similar experience years ago. But on this day, I was late for my plane and hoped the situation would be resolved soon. After talking to a manager and reviewing the terms of the ticket purchase, the man paid the extra fee. The rest of us in line sighed a quiet relief as the clock ticked down to our departure times.

The gentleman’s reaction reminded me of a Medicare beneficiary I encountered a while back. When he was first eligible, he decided not to enroll in Medicare Part B, which helps pay for doctor fees, outpatient treatment and preventive care services. He was in good health when he declined his Part B benefits. He rarely saw a doctor, didn’t take prescription drugs and had never been admitted to a hospital. Part B carries a monthly premium (about $109 for most people in 2017), and the man didn’t think he should pay for something he didn’t need.

Several years later, however, his health declined and he wanted Part B. He signed up in March, but learned that his coverage wouldn’t start until July. And, since he had waited five years to enroll after he was initially eligible (and didn’t have job-based insurance at the time), he learned that he would have to pay a late penalty equal to 50 percent of his monthly premium.

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