Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are age 65 or older. But you may enroll in Medicare earlier if you have a qualifying disability or end-stage renal disease.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average retirement age is 65 for men and 63 for women. But if you retire before age 65, you’ll need to have health insurance until you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare.
Here’s what else you need to know about Medicare eligibility.
Most people are eligible to receive full Medicare coverage at age 65. But this depends on whether you or your spouse have earned enough credits.
You earn one credit for every $1,360 you make per year. Since you can only earn a maximum of four credits per year, most people will need to work at least 10 years to be eligible for Medicare. This is provided that they earned at least $5,440 each year.
If you were a stay-at-home spouse, you may not have the work experience on your own to qualify for Medicare. But you may qualify through your spouse’s credits as long as you’ve been married for at least one continuous year. This is regardless of whether you’re in an opposite or same-sex marriage.
If you’re divorced, you may still qualify for Medicare through your spouse’s credits as long as you were married for at least 10 years. You must also be currently single.
You may be eligible for Medicare before the age of 65 if you have a qualifying disability. But first, you’ll need to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for 24 months. The only exceptions would be if you had end-stage renal disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Under those circumstances, you would not be subjected to the 24-month waiting period.
In general, you’ll need to wait about 5 months from the time you’re diagnosed with a disability to when you can receive SSDI benefits. This waiting period also applies to widow(er)s.
While you wait for SSDI benefits, you may be eligible for health insurance coverage through your employer or COBRA.
If you’re still working at age 65 or older, we recommend that you speak with a Medicare advisor. They’ll be able to look at your current situation and recommend the best course of action.
If you have employer-sponsored health insurance, you won’t need to apply for Medicare once you turn 65. But you’ll need to have your employer sign this form so you can avoid late-enrollment penalties. This form proves that you have health insurance coverage.
Keep in mind that you may still enroll in Medicare if you’re still working at age 65. But you’ll need to know about any rules and conditions. For example, you’ll need to determine who to list as your primary insurer.
The most important thing is that you don’t have a lapse in health insurance coverage. That’s why we may recommend applying for Medicare early enough so it’ll be effective on the day you retire.
It’s always better to start thinking about Medicare sooner rather than later.
Looking for affordable Medicare plans? To speak with an experienced advisor, please call Michigan Planners at (800) 674-9235. You may also fill out our online contact form and one of our customer advocates will reach out to you soon.