Who Is Eligible For Medicare?
Are you eligible for Medicare? Health care can be a complicated topic, but it’s actually simple to know who is eligible for Medicare — and when.
Qualifications for Original Medicare
It is important to note that when discussing Medicare eligibility, we’re talking about who is eligible for Original Medicare. Original Medicare is made up of Medicare Part A and B, which includes hospital and medical care provided by the government. The most basic qualification of Medicare is that you must be at least 65 years old, and a citizen or legal resident of the United States for at least five continuous years.
If you are under 65, you may still be eligible for Medicare in certain cases if you are disabled and receiving disability benefits, or if you have a life-threatening disease.
What if you’re still working when you turn 65 and you have an employer-provided health care plan? In this case, you need to find out if your employer requires you to sign up for Medicare. If not, you can keep your existing coverage and enroll in Medicare later during a special enrollment period. So, if you’re over 65 and have coverage through your employer, you may not need to take any action until you are ready to retire.
What if you don’t want Medicare, or all parts of Medicare?
Joining Medicare is voluntary, but there may be consequences for not enrolling when you are first eligible for Medicare. While you can delay enrolling in Part A, there is no reason to not sign up as soon as you’re eligible. Because you’ve already paid to participate in Part A through taxes at work, enrolling is free and there are no monthly premiums.
If you delay enrolling in Part B, you could incur a late penalty — which adds to the cost of your premiums permanently. However, if you’re still working and have primary health insurance from your employer, you may be exempt from the penalty.
So you’re eligible for Medicare. What’s next?
Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, the first step is to sign up! To enroll in Original Medicare, you can either apply online through the Social Security website, or at your local Social Security office. When you’re eligible, you can sign up for Medicare during what is known as your initial enrollment period. This is the seven-month period that includes the three months before your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and the three months after your birthday month.
After you’ve signed up, you will then choose your coverage. You may choose to stick with Original Medicare, add a Medicare Supplement insurance plan with additional benefits, or consider a Medicare Advantage plan. No matter your decision, understanding the costs of Medicare can help.
Medicare provides the convenience and freedom to help enjoy your retirement years knowing you have health care coverage. If you still need help confirming whether or not you’re eligible for Medicare, use this Medicare eligibility calculator.