Medicare and Social Security: How They Work Together
If you’re getting ready to age into Medicare, you or your spouse has probably spent decades paying Social Security and Medicare taxes. Retirees, the disabled, survivors of workers who have died, and dependents of beneficiaries use that tax money.
Social Security is meant to replace some of your earnings when you retire, become disabled, or die. Medicare is our country’s basic health insurance program for people 65+ and many people with disabilities.
Both programs typically provide valuable benefits to individuals around age 65, but they are separate programs. So, how do they work together?
Medicare and Social Security’s Connection
Medicare and Social Security are separate programs, but they both fill essential roles for the retired population. Social Security provides monthly benefits that help replace some of your earnings. Medicare provides health insurance for people 65+.
Fun Fact: Of each Social Security tax dollar you pay, the SSA spends less than one penny to manage the program.
While these are two separate programs, they interact with each other in seven ways:
- Social Security helps seniors sign up for Medicare.
- You can request a replacement Medicare card through your Social Security account.
- Your Medicare premiums can come right out of your Social Security check.
- If you’re already getting Social Security benefits when you become eligible for Medicare, Medicare will automatically enroll you in both Part A and Part B.
- If you’ve been getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for 24 months, Medicare will automatically enroll you in the 25th month you receive SSDI.
- The Social Security Administration processes death reports for both Social Security and Medicare recipients.
- Social Security helps you understand how you might qualify for Extra Help to pay for your Medicare Part D drug plan. They also process your application for Extra Help.
Social Security and Medicare “talk” to each other. For example, if you’re receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll get information about Medicare in the mail three months before you turn 65.
1. Signing Up For Medicare
You can apply for Medicare on the Social Security Administration’s website. You can also go to your local SSA office, but that can take a long time! We strongly recommend utilizing the online enrollment feature.
It’s as easy as going to https://www.ssa.gov, clicking on “Medicare Enrollment,” and clicking "Apply for Medicare Only." Then, you start the application.
You can read more about that here: How to Apply For Medicare Without Going to the Social Security Office
Fun Fact: You don’t pay Social Security taxes on earnings greater than $137,700 (as of 2020).
2. Requesting a Replacement Medicare Card
If you lose your Medicare card, you can request a replacement through Social Security. You’ll need a my Social Security account.
Once you create your account, you can sign in and select the “Replacement Documents” tab.
Then select “Mail my replacement Medicare Card.”
You’ll get your new card in about 30 days, and it’ll go to the address you have on file with Social Security. Don’t worry – you can also update your mailing address in your my Social Security account.
For a temporary Medicare card, you can print one off at myMedicare.gov.
Create an account there if you haven’t already, and once you’re signed in, you’ll see your Medicare Number, and you can even print off a copy of your card.
If you’re not comfortable with technology, you can always call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for help.
Fun Fact: The average estimated 2020 monthly Social Security benefits for all retired workers is $1,503.
3. Medicare Premiums and Social Security
For most people, your Medicare Part B premium will come right out of your Social Security check. If you’re new to Medicare, Social Security will send you a notice about when those deductions will start.
If you aren’t getting benefits from Social Security, the Office of Personnel Management, or the Railroad Retirement Board when you sign up for Medicare, you’ll get a monthly bill for your Part B premium.
In 2020, the Part B premium is $144.60. Keep in mind that the Part B premium is based on income, so while most people will pay $144.60, some people will pay more.
If you make more than $87,000 by yourself or $174,000 as a couple, your monthly premium will be higher than that. You can check out the Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA) chart here: Medicare Costs
Fun Fact: In 2020, about 65 million Americans will receive over one trillion dollars in Social Security benefits.
Are Medicare Part D premiums deducted from Social Security?
You can have your Medicare Part D (drug plan) premiums deducted from your Social Security check if you wish. When you enroll in your drug plan, the system will give you the option.
If we are helping you with your drug plan enrollment, just let us know if you want that to happen. Just know that you may need to pay your premium directly for a couple of months before your request goes into effect. The government can be slow sometimes!
Are Medicare Advantage premiums deducted from Social Security?
About half of Medicare Advantage plans are $0 premium, but if you do have a premium, you can deduct it right from your Social Security check. Remember that even if you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, you still must pay the Medicare part B premium. So, you'd have two premiums coming out of your Social Security check.
Fun Fact: Nearly nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.
4. Social Security Benefits and Medicare Enrollment
If you already get benefits from Social Security – say you signed up at age 63 – you’ll be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare when you turn 65. Original Medicare includes Part A, your hospital insurance, and Part B, your medical insurance.
You’ll also get a packet in the mail three months before your 65th birthday that includes tons of information about the Medicare program. A lot of people we talk to get confused because there’s so much information in there – please give us a call and we’ll help you understand Medicare!
5. SSDI and Automatic Medicare Enrollment
Medicare is available to people under age 65 with disabilities, and it might be more common than you think. About 16% of individuals with Medicare coverage are actually under age 65 (Kaiser Family Foundation).
Those who have been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, are automatically enrolled in Medicare regardless of age.
Also, those who have been diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) can get Medicare no matter how old they are if they meet a few eligibility criteria.
But the most common way to qualify for Medicare coverage under age 65 is if you have received Social Security Disability (SSDI) checks or Railroad Retirement Benefits (RRB) because of a disability for 24 months (doesn’t have to be consecutive months).
If that’s you, Medicare will automatically enroll you in Parts A and B. That automatic enrollment takes effect in the 25th month.
The latest data from 2014 breaks down the conditions of those who received SSDI:
- 34% qualified for Medicare due to mental disorders
- 28% due to diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue
- 4% due to injuries
- 3% due to cancer
- 30% due to other diseases and conditions
You automatically get Medicare Part A and B after 24 months of disability from SSDI or RRB. You don’t have to sign up – you’ll get the red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail three months before your 25th-month disability check.
Fun Fact: As you work and pay taxes, you earn Social Security “credits.” In 2020, you get one credit for each $1,410 in earnings — up to a maximum of four credits per year. The amount of money needed to earn one credit usually goes up every year. Most people need 40 credits (10 years of work) to qualify for benefits.
6. Death Reports and Social Security
The Social Security Administration processes death reports for both Social Security and Medicare recipients.
To report a death:
- Provide the deceased person's Social Security number to the funeral director so they can report the death to the SSA.
- Contact your local Social Security office or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to make the report.
The SSA can’t pay benefits for the month of a recipient’s death. That means if the person died in July, you must return the check received in August (which is payment for July).
If the payment is by direct deposit, notify the financial institution as soon as possible so it can return any payments received after the death.
Family members may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits when a person getting benefits dies. Visit the SSA's Survivors Benefits page to learn more.
7. Social Security, Medicare, and Extra Help
If you have limited resources and income, you may qualify for Extra Help to pay for your prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.
Social Security’s role is to help you understand how you may qualify and to process your application for Extra Help. To see if you are eligible or to apply, call Social Security’s toll-free number or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/extrahelp.
Fun Fact: In 1940, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was almost 14 years; today it is just over 20 years.
Social Security and Medicare are two separate programs, but they work together in a lot of ways. From enrolling in Medicare to paying your Medicare premiums, Social Security often steps in to help.
To get the most out of Medicare and Social Security, make sure you sign up for an online account:
- My Medicare Account: https://www.mymedicare.gov/
- My Social Security Account: https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/
Social Security retirement benefits can be quite confusing, so please reach out to us for help. We can help make sense of it all.
Social Security Administration. “Understanding the Benefits.” Accessed May 11, 2020. https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10024.pdf
Social Security Administration. "Fact Sheet." Accessed May 19, 2020. https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/basicfact-alt.pdf
Medicare Rights Center. “Medicare Q&A.” Accessed May 11, 2020. https://www.medicarerights.org/PartB-Enrollment-Toolkit/Part-1-QA-General.pdf
USAGov. “Top Questions About Social Security.” Accessed May 11, 2020. https://www.usa.gov/about-social-security
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