Applying for Medicare insurance can be a stressful event. Most people are used to getting their health insurance through their employer and some have never had to apply for any kind of health insurance outside of work. Then you turn 65 and retire and suddenly there are a whole bunch of government programs to learn about.
Medicare Eligibility Age Differs from Social Security
A helpful article for new retirees or seniors who are preparing to enroll in Social Security and/or Medicare benefits.
Fortunately, you can apply for Medicare and your Social Security income benefits at the same location: your local Social Security office. If you are applying for both at the same time, it can even be done in the same visit, provided you are eligible for both. However, it’s important to know that the age at which you are eligible for each program is different.
Currently you are eligible for full Social Security income benefits at age 66. Full income retirement benefit means you will be paid 100% of the amount you are eligible to receive, determined by the Social Security administration. You are also eligible to take early income benefits as young as age 62. Taking benefits early means that you will be paid a reduced monthly benefit because you will take benefits over a longer period of time than if you had waited until age 66. The reduced monthly benefit starts at 75% if you are 62.
The longer you wait, the higher your percentage of benefits will get. Many people work well past age 66 these days, and waiting to start your retirement benefits will result in a larger monthly benefit. The maximum benefits is 132% of your full benefit if you wait until age 70. There is a helpful chart at the Social Security website that you can use to determine your percentage based on your age of application for benefits.
It’s important to remember that your Social Security income benefits have nothing to do with Medicare, so whether you apply for your retirement benefits at age 62 or 66, your eligibility for Medicare will not be affected either way.
Medicare eligibility is based on a couple of factors. First, you must have worked for 10 years in the U.S. in your lifetime, or be married to someone who has woman who has worked those ten years. Second, you must be age 65 or older unless you have a disability which qualified you for early Medicare benefits. The majority of people who qualify for Medicare are people who “age in,” meaning that they turned 65.
If you are not working past age 65, then you will most likely want to apply for Medicare to be your primary insurance. You can apply for Medicare as early as three months before your 65th birthday, and your Part A and Part B benefits will begin on the first of the month in which you turned 65.
On the other hand, if you do work past age 65 and decide to stay on your employer’s group health insurance, you can delay your enrollment into Medicare until you retire and roll off those group benefits. Most people who decide to stay with their group plan will at least enroll in Medicare Part A, because it doesn’t cost anything if you have worked the required 10 years, and it can coordinate with your group insurance to help to reduce your costs if you are hospitalized.
Enrolling in Medicare is a simple process that can be done online, over the telephone or even in person at the nearest Social Security office. As long as you don’t confuse the two government programs and remember that age 65 is the magic number for getting Medicare benefits, your enrollment should be simple and easy to do.
Danielle Kunkle is the co-owner of Boomer Benefits, a licensed insurance agency specializing in Medigap insurance. She and her team help thousands of people each year with when to apply for Medicare. Click here to learn more about when and how to apply for your Medicare benefits.