Enrolling in Medicare and choosing the right plan to suit your needs can be quite challenging, yet, understanding the age that you are eligible to enroll can be even more confusing for many people. Many mistakenly believe that they can sign up for Medicare when they are 62, and some aren’t sure about whether they can or should enroll while they are still working or if they are eligible to enroll based on their qualifying spouse’s work history
According to a recent study many people mistakenly believe that they are eligible to enroll in Medicare when they turn 62, whereas the typical age of eligibility for most recipients is 65. There are exceptions to this rule, however, depending on a variety of circumstances. It’s important to educate yourself so that you are aware of the eligibility requirements for you or your spouse to enroll in Medicare.
Let’s take a few minutes to bust some of the myths and misconceptions regarding Medicare eligibility so that you are well-informed:
MYTH: No matter what age you retire, you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare immediately.
FACT: Regardless of when you retire, the age you are eligible for Medicare remains at 65, or if you are part of the Railroad Retirement Board, or are diagnosed with a qualifying disability like ALS or end-stage renal disease.
MYTH: You cannot enroll in Medicare if you or your spouse are still working and have an employer provided health insurance plan.
FACT: If you have insurance coverage through your employer of more than 20 employees and are still working at 65 years of age, you can also enroll in Medicare. Your employer provided plan will remain your primary insurance and Medicare will be your secondary insurance.
MYTH: Spouses can “share” a Medicare plan even if one of them isn’t 65 or hasn’t met the work requirement.
FACT: Medicare is considered an individual health insurance plan, which means that it cannot be shared. However, a non-working spouse who is 65 can usually enroll in Medicare Part A (also known as hospital coverage) if the other spouse has worked at least 10 years and paid Medicare payroll taxes.
Non-working, younger spouses typically need to continue with a COBRA plan or obtain their own insurance (until they reach the age of 65) if the older spouse retires and enrolls in Medicare. Some employers will allow younger spouses to remain on employer provided insurance plans, however, it’s best to check whether your spouse’s employer offers this benefit.
Older, non-working spouses who turn 65 may want to obtain Part A coverage while the younger spouse is still working, possibly being able to enroll in Part B (medical insurance) during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) when the younger spouse eventually retires.
MYTH: A widowed or divorced spouse cannot enroll in Medicare based on a former spouse’s work history.
FACT: If you are widowed but were married to your spouse for at least nine months prior to their death, or if you were married for at least ten years prior to a divorce, you may also be eligible to enroll in Medicare based on your spouse’s work history.
No matter the age you enroll in Medicare, there are some eligibility criteria that everyone must meet:
- Recipients must be US Citizens or have been legal United States residents with a stable US address for at least five years.
- Medicare enrollees must stop contributions to Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s), although funds from existing accounts can be used to pay for qualifying expenses.