It is February and if you have not signed up for Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period and you are not covered by an active employer group health plan, you still may enroll until Mar. 31. Your coverage for Medicare Part B will begin July 1st and you may face a penalty.

We have individuals that call us each year with a common question: “But I had employer group coverage — COBRA. Don’t I have 8 months to sign up for Part B?” We explain that Medicare enrollment periods apply to COBRA beneficiaries too.

COBRA beneficiaries who are not currently employed and who delayed enrollment in Medicare Part B, may not qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP) to enroll in Medicare Part B after their COBRA coverage ends. They may, however, qualify for a SEP to enroll in Part D at that time, if the drug coverage they had under COBRA is creditable. Individuals on COBRA do not meet the definition of “current employment.”

What is COBRA?

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to continue their group health plan for a limited period of time. A worker may choose COBRA under circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay a full premium, up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.

In certain instances, where coverage under the plan would otherwise end, COBRA generally requires that group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees offer employees and their families a temporary extension of health coverage (called continuation coverage).

Other Special Enrollments (SEP) Available

Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period: Jan. 1– Feb. 14. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can leave your plan and switch to Original Medicare. If you choose to switch during this period, you’ll have until Feb. 14 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. Your Medicare coverage will begin the first day of the month after the plan receives your enrollment form.

5-Star Special Enrollment Period. Medicare plans are rated by members, plans, health care providers surveys and data. A 5-star rating is considered excellent. You can switch to a 5-star Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare Cost Plan, or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (if one is available in your area) once each year. The SEP runs between Dec. 8 and Nov. 30 every year. Contact Hawaii SHIP for more information.


Hawaii SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program)
1-888-875-9229 | 808-586-7299 |
For 2014 Medicare updates: