Massive penalty for late enrollment in Medicare for people with disabilities

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My name is Beth Janelle Rhoades.  I was declared disabled by the Social Security Administration based on my declining health, which forced me into an early retirement after working for over 20 years and paying into the system.  At the time of my forced retirement, I was eligible to continue my medical insurance through my former employer through COBRA.  I filed for Social Security Disability and was found eligible.  This process took a period of time and was retroactive to the date I first applied.  I continued receiving the COBRA health insurance as a medical retiree.  Roughly 2 years later, I received notice that I now was eligible for for Medicare.  I saw the struggle others went through to try and understand the differences in health plans, especially the Part D coverage for medications.  At the time, I could get a 6 month supply of a medication for $10.00 (I take 15 different medications a day), my co-pay to see the doctor was only $25.00, I didn't need a referral to see a specialist and I didn't have to worry about whether my doctors were in a Network or not.  Medicare said I had to take Part A for no additional cost, but I could choose to remain with my current health care.  However, they said I would have to pay a penalty if I chose to switch to a Medicare Plan B and D later on. The penalty was never fully explained to me, the length of time I would be paying it, or how much it would be.  I was only given a short time to make the decision and send the forms back.  This did not give me a chance to really discuss with my various doctors how a change to Medicare would effect my relationships with them.  My primary care provider just gave me a list of all the Medicare providers he wouldn't work with and I would be a cash up front patient.  When I went to my drug store and asked them about Medicare Part D, they just laughed and told me no plan would cover all the medications I took and how much more expensive just a couple of my non-covered meds would be.  I remember one of them being over $1,000.00 a month versus the $10.00 for 6 months I was paying at that time.  Now, just over 8 years later, my Medical COBRA premiums, doctor co-pays, and medicines have skyrocketed and I can no longer afford it.  Some medical services have been cut altogether while others have been severely limited. As a result I started looking at Medicare again.  It was at this point I found out I would be paying a 10% penalty each month for the length of time I did not use Medicare when it was first offered.  For me this means that I would be paying over $250.00 in penalties each month for the rest of the time I would be on Medicare.  This would be over $3,000.00 a year, over $30,000 for 10 years, etc... JUST in penalties.  I understand that I need to pay a penalty.  I just can't believe a person would be punished to this extent for the rest of time they would receive Medicare.  I could see paying $1,000.00 or even $3,000.00 for the first year as a fair penalty.  However a 10% penalty for the rest of the time a person would receive Medicare is beyond "cruel and unusual punishment", especially when stretched so thin on Social Security as income. This policy also needs to be explained much more clearly to people when they become eligible for Medicare.



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