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If I’m Still Working, When Do I Apply for Medicare?

Two Seniors discussing their Medicare options.

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A common question among healthy folks who are turning 65 is, “When do I need to apply for Medicare if I’m still working?”

It Depends

It will depend on your situation. If you’ve worked a minimum of ten years — 40 quarters — under Medicare-covered employment AND paid Medicare taxes during those years, you qualify for Part A (premium-free). And you’ll be automatically enrolled at 65 even if you keep working.

If your spouse has adequate employment quarters, you may also qualify for premium-free Part A — based upon his or her work history.

Reminders: Medicare Eligibility Requirements

Another requirement for Medicare eligibility is that you must be an American citizen or permanent (legal) resident of at least 5 consecutive years.

If you have a short work history and need to pay a premium for Part A, you can choose to delay enrollment — if you already have health insurance through your or your spouse’s employer. There’s always a monthly premium for Medicare Part B. So, you might similarly decide to delay your Part B enrollment if you (or your spouse) are still working and have group coverage through an employer.

Note: Also, if you don’t sign up for Medicare when you’re initially eligible AND you don’t have other employer-based insurance, you may have to pay a penalty later — when you do sign up. This penalty applies to Part B and Part A if you have to pay a premium for A.

Do You Want Medicare While You’re Still Working?

Even if you get health coverage through your employer, Medicare may help pay for some things that your group plan doesn’t cover. 

For instance, signing up for Medicare may help you if you work for a smaller company — with less than 20 employees — since Medicare might be the main payer before your group health coverage. 

It would be wise to chat with your employer to see how your health insurance and costs compare with Medicare coverage.

Related Post: Turning 65? Here’s What You Need to Know

Special Enrollment Period

If you choose to wait until your group insurance ends to sign up for Part A and/or Part B, you’ll get an eight-month Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll in Medicare. This window will begin once you stop working OR your group coverage ends — whichever occurs first.  

You can also sign up for Medicare at any time that you’re still working and have employer-based coverage.

What Is COBRA?

COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. It allows workers and their families the ability to continue health insurance coverage — after they leave employment. 

Some folks choose COBRA after they stop working. If you go this route, don’t wait until your coverage ends to enroll in Medicare. If you don’t enroll during your SEP, you’ll need to wait until the General Enrollment Period (GEP) to sign up, which is January 1 to March 31 each year. Plus, you may need to pay a late enrollment fee.

Related Post: What Is the Enrollment Process for Medicare?

Contact a Medicare Expert

The Medicare system can raise many questions, especially if you’re new to it. When you need answers, feel free to contact a Medicare agent at Bobby Brock Insurance

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