Q. I am retired CSRS annuitant and signed up for Medicare on my 65th birthday in December. After doing more research months later, I decided to sign up for Part B. I called Medicare and was told that I would have until December 2013 to sign up without a penalty but that open season didn’t start until January 2014. I was further told that I would incur a $10-per-month penalty. I called back a week or so later for clarification and was told I could sign up prior to 2014 and not pay the penalty. What is the correct answer?
A. Because I don’t know the time that elapsed between when you declined Part B coverage and when you changed your mind, I can’t say which of the two answers is correct. Anyhow, here are the rules: There is a seven-month initial enrollment period for Part B. The period begins three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after that month. If you don’t sign up during your initial enrollment period and then later decide you want to do that, you can sign up during a general enrollment period, which is held Jan. 1 through March 31 of each year. If you do that, your premium will be 10 percent higher.