Is it required to sign up for Medicare at age 65?
Updated January 17, 2019
Originally published December 26, 2017
You are not required to sign up for Medicare at age 65, but the question is: should you?
If you delay enrollment, there are penalties involved, but delaying can be a good thing if you’re not retired by age 65.
Do you have to be on Medicare at 65?
When you turn 65 years old, you’re eligible to sign up for Medicare.
Original Medicare is made up of 2 main parts: Part A (your hospital insurance) and Part B (your medical insurance).
As long as you’ve worked at least 10 years and paid Medicare taxes, Medicare Part A is actually free to have, meaning that you don’t have a monthly premium to pay. There’s really no downside to having Part A when you turn 65.
Do you have to have Part A when you turn 65? No. Is there any downside to having Part A when you turn 65? No. That’s why you don’t actually have to sign up for Part A.
Three months before you turn 65, you’ll be mailed your Medicare card, and you’re automatically enrolled in Part A. You’ll also be automatically enrolled in Part B unless you send the card back explaining that you don’t want it.
Which brings us to our next question – is Medicare Part B mandatory at age 65?
Is Medicare Part B mandatory at age 65?
Medicare Part B is not mandatory to have at age 65, but if you don’t have any other health coverage, you will want to sign up for it. Medicare Part B has a monthly premium, which is $134, and that usually comes out of your Social Security check, so you don’t even notice it.
If you’re still working and have health insurance through your employer, you may not need to sign up for Medicare Part B.
And a growing number of individuals over 65 are choosing to continue working. In fact, almost 19% of people 65 and older are still working. That’s about 9 million people. To put that into perspective, only about 4 million people over 65 were still working in 2000.
The most common jobs of older workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, include management, office and administrative support, and sales.
If this might be you, there’s a good chance that you’re still getting some kind of health insurance through your employer. If that’s the case, you probably don’t need to pay for Medicare Part B’s coverage, because you’re already covered.
This isn’t always the case, though. For example, if your employer does not pay for your health insurance premium, you might be shelling out hundreds of dollars per month for it. In that case, it can save you a lot of money to switch to Medicare.
Our team of licensed agents can help you determine which route would save you the most money, so if you’re not sure, be assured that we can help.
If you are planning on retiring at 65, you will definitely want to enroll in Medicare Part B so that you don’t go without any health insurance coverage.
Additionally, if you lose your health insurance through your employer or choose to just go without, you’ll face penalties for not enrolling in Medicare Part B.
No one likes penalties, so make sure you’re covered at all times.
Can you sign up for Medicare after age 65?
Here’s the gist: you can decide not to sign up for Medicare, but if you don’t have some kind of health coverage, you’ll be penalized when you do eventually sign up.
If you’ve had credible coverage, such as group health insurance through your employer, you’re free to sign up for Medicare with no penalties.
However, if you just chose to put it off for whatever reason, there will be a penalty on your monthly premium, which is 10% for each year that you could have had Part B but didn’t sign up for it.
Again – no one likes penalties, so if you’re confused or just want to make sure you have it figured out, please ask our team to review your Medicare plan.
Do you have to take Medicare if you have other insurance?
You do not have to take Medicare if you have other insurance, and you’re actually exempt from penalties. That means that if you want to switch to Medicare after you’re 65, you don’t have to pay a penalty for waiting.
The most common example is an individual who waits to retire. He or she has group coverage through their employer, so they don’t need Medicare. As soon as they retire, they’re free to sign up for Medicare without paying any of the penalties.
As long as you have some kind of health insurance coverage – even if you’re over age 65 – you can’t be penalized when you do decide to make the switch to Medicare.
Should I enroll in Medicare if I’m still working?
Sometimes, it’s more cost-effective to enroll in Medicare while you’re working, and other times it’s better to stay where you are.
Example 1: Your employer is contributing to your group health insurance plan.
If you don’t have to pay for your group health insurance premium, most of the time you will be better off staying where you are until you retire and come off the group.
Some other factors you might consider would be how high your deductible is, your coinsurance percentage, and your copays. You might also consider your health. If you’re really healthy and only go to the doctor for an annual or semi-annual exam, you’re not particularly concerned with a higher deductible.
However, if you have a major illness or have had a history of being in and out of the hospital, a higher deductible can be a bit overwhelming, and you may decide to switch to Medicare for its very low deductible.
Note: Medicare on its own only covers about 80% of your Medicare-approved expenses. We always recommend adding a Medicare Supplement, which covers the remaining 20%.
Example 2: You are contributing to your group health insurance plan.
In almost all cases, you can save money by switching to Medicare with a Medigap plan if you’re the one contributing to your group health insurance plan.
Health insurance premiums are sky-high, with some plans costing upwards of $800 per month. Medicare’s monthly premium is nowhere close to that, and you can even add on a Medicare Supplement (same thing as Medigap, just a different name for it) with no chance of reaching that kind of premium.
In sum, you can have much better coverage for a fraction of the cost if you’re paying for your group health insurance and are over 65.
If you’d like a Medicare specialist to help you one-on-one, schedule a free Medicare planner with one of our licensed agents.
Our team of dedicated, licensed agents can help you as little or as much as you need. Whether it’s answering a few questions about Medicare or creating a comprehensive Medicare Planner with you, we are your Medicare Allies.