Medicare has been our national health insurance plan for those over age 65, since 1964. Compared to individual health insurance or even group coverage, it is excellent coverage. But you must take an active role in managing your coverage.

In the next few weeks, we will review the most common mistakes Medicare beneficiaries make.

Mistake #1:

Didn’t Elect Part B on Time.

You will want to ensure Medicare parts A and B are effective the first of the month of your birthday month. For example, if you were born June 12, 1956, your Medicare effective date should be June 1, 2021. If you were born on the 1st, your effective date will actually be the first of the prior month.

In the months prior to turning 65, you are going to be inundated by direct mail marketing. Everyone wants to help you with your Medicare. Somewhere in all that, you will also receive a notice from the Social Security Administration that contains your award letter. It lists effective dates for your Part A and Part B, and your Medicare claim number. You will also receive your Medicare card, with the same information on it.

Don’t assume you are enrolled if you haven’t received the letter or card. Call 1-800-Medicare and get your enrollment information over the phone. Or, you can even enroll online at even if you are not electing to take your Social Security benefit yet.

Unless you have group coverage from an employer, getting your Medicare in place on time and then choosing a Medicare plan will help you avoid penalties and delays in the future.