open enrollmentRetiring when you’re eligible for Medicare is doable for fewer and fewer people now days, in part, thanks to the increasing cost of health care.  If you’re thinking Medicare will be happy you’re not enrolling as soon as you’re eligible, you could be in for a rude surprise when you sign up a later age.
Penalties for Late Enrollment
Medicare has late-enrollment penalties for Part A, Part B and Part D.  The penalties come in the form of higher monthly premiums. You’re probably not subject to all of those, though. Few people pay for Part A because most have already paid into the Medicare fund through payroll deductions.
Everyone pays for Part B, though, so you could face higher Part B premiums if you enroll after your initial enrollment period has ended. Part B is how Medicare handles doctor bills and the cost of other non-hospital medical charges, like for durable medical equipment. Part A deals more with hospital charges and temporary stays in skilled nursing facilities.  Since it’s free to most people, check it out even if you are covered on the job.  It might expand your coverage.
You are not required to buy Part B, so you may not want to if you have that coverage through employment, a union, or something similar.  In that case, you will probably be offered a special enrollment period that avoids any penalty when your existing coverage ends.  Confirm that at the time you become 65 so you’re not caught off guard with an unexpected penalty later.
Whether to Sign up for Part D
Part D is optional prescription drug coverage. With the high cost of medication, it may not be optional for you.  And, there’s a catch.  If you don’t need medication when you turn 65 and try to enroll at a later age because you need help to pay for prescriptions then, that will trigger higher premiums than the standard rate.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage. For more information visit