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Q: I’m Turning 65. Can I Get Medicare While Still Working?

Asked by Anonymous on October 12, 2017

Am I supposed to sign up for Medicare while still working when I turn 65? I’ll still have coverage from my employer – what are the rules around this?

Hal Levy October 12, 2017

If you’re still working at 65, and you’re eligible for Medicare, you may not have to sign up right away; however, we highly recommended signing up for Medicare as soon as you’re eligible. If you don’t closely follow the rules that allow you to postpone enrollment in Medicare, you may face significant financial penalties when you do enroll.

Selectively Enrolling in Medicare

Remember, Medicare is split into two sections – Part A and Part B. Together, this is the federal insurance program also referred to as “Original Medicare”. While you don’t have to enroll in Medicare while still working, you might want to enroll in at least Medicare Part A while postponing Part B.

Occasionally, 65-year-olds enroll in Part A (which includes premium-free hospital coverage) and delay enrolling in Part B (which includes outpatient care and has considerable monthly premiums). There are also other aspects of the Medicare program, such as prescription drug coverage and private supplementary coverage, but they require both Part A and Part B first.

If you’re receiving Social Security benefits, then you’ll have to sign up for Medicare Part A even if you delay enrolling in Medicare Part B.

You Can Safely Delay Medicare Part B Enrollment If:

  1. You’re enrolled in a health insurance plan through your current employer, or your spouse’s current employer, AND
  2. The employer has 20 employees or more, AND
  3. The employer offers “creditable coverage”, or coverage with benefits that are at least equivalent to Medicare.
    1. You’ll want to confirm, in writing, that the coverage you’re using is creditable coverage. Contact your employer, insurance company, or Social Security if possible.

If you meet the above conditions, then you can delay enrolling in Medicare for up to 8 months after you (or your spouse, if you’re receiving coverage through them) have stopped working at the job that provides your current insurance.

You’ll have to enroll in person at your Social Security office once you do want to receive Medicare, since this scenario usually can’t be handled over the phone or online.

You Should Sign Up Right Away If:

  • You get health insurance from an employer with fewer than 20 employees;
  • You’re enrolled in individual health insurance, like an Obamacare plan;
  • You rely on a Christian health ministry, short-term insurance, or no insurance at all;
  • You’re using COBRA, retiree insurance, or health insurance from a previous job; or
  • You have VA health coverage.

Nearly all Americans over the age of 65 are enrolled in premium-free Medicare Part A, including all Social Security beneficiaries.

Instead of delaying enrollment, you could opt out of Medicare forever if you really wanted to. You’d need to speak with Social Security to opt out entirely, but this is rarely done.

It’s safe to postpone your coverage if you’re comfortable doing so. You’ll want to consider the financial implications of doing so first, since most Medicare beneficiaries are satisfied with their coverage and healthcare costs.

You Can Still Get Supplemental Coverage When You Do Join

You can generally join Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage without penalty within a few months of getting both Medicare Part A and Part B for the first time. Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage are two very important programs which help pay your out-of-pocket Medicare costs.

Taking the Next Steps

You can see if your current health insurance will allow you to postpone Medicare enrollment. If Medicare turns out to be a better option for your needs, browse our selection of Medicare Supplement plans to find coverage that will last a lifetime.

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