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Registering for Medicare is a crucial and important time in your life. As you approach retirement, you may wonder: can I get Medicare while working? When the time comes, it is important that you enroll at the correct time. This is to ensure that you receive the most value for your health care. If you’re considering enrolling in Medicare before you retire, make sure you explore all of your options to ensure that this is the best decision for your health care.
When Am I Eligible for Medicare?
In general, most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. However, people younger than 65 with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) are also eligible for Medicare. These, of course, are special scenarios.
For most people, Medicare Part A will be free in retirement. Wondering if you’re included in this group? If you worked at least 40 quarters (10 years) in the United States. You must have paid Medicare taxes while employed, you should receive Part A at no monthly cost.
If you didn’t work or pay Medicare taxes, you may still be eligible for coverage if your spouse did. You and your family worked many years to ensure that your health is covered in retirement, so see this as an added benefit.
While Part A is part of Medicare, it doesn’t ensure complete coverage. If you’re also wanting outpatient coverage, you’ll need Medicare Part B as well. If you want Part B, you’ll have to pay a monthly premium which will depend on the official start date of your Part B, and your income level.
Finally, if you’re wanting Part D (your prescription drug coverage) and a Medicare Supplement policy (secondary coverage for your Medicare gaps), you will also pay a monthly premium for this added coverage.
Should I Get Medicare If I Keep Working?
While everyone’s retirement journey is different, we find that most people retire at age 65 when they begin collecting Social Security. However, many others will continue working well after the 65th birthday milestone. Regardless of if you continue working or not, as soon as you become eligible for Medicare Part A (usually when you turn 65), you should enroll right away. This is especially important if you are eligible for the premium-free Medicare Part A. Since you won’t pay anything for your Part A coverage, you simply gain more protection at no cost.
At some point, you’ll likely want to enroll in Medicare Part B, too. However, the timing of your Part B enrollment will depend heavily on whether you continue working past age 65 or not. You may prefer to keep your existing coverage if you decide to continue working past 65.
Choosing to enroll in Medicare while working will also depend on the size of your company. Let’s give an example to illustrate why that’s important. If you work for a company with fewer than 20 employees, Medicare becomes the primary payer for your coverage. The employer-sponsored coverage pays secondary in this case. For scenarios like this, you’ll need to evaluate your employer secondary coverage and compare it to Medicare Part B. Then, choose which plan offers more comprehensive coverage and move forward accordingly.
Here’s another example. If you work for a company with more than 20 employees, your employer plan will offer the same benefits as it did before you were eligible for Medicare. In this case, you can delay your Part B enrollment until you retire. In this example, you’d be granted a special enrollment period for Part B and would avoid the Part B late enrollment penalties.
How Does Medicare Work with My Employee Insurance?
If you’ve decided that you want to enroll in Medicare while still working, it’s important to know how Medicare works with your current employee insurance. If you have Medicare and employer-sponsored insurance together, each type of coverage is considered a “payer.” In regard to paying out a claim, the primary payer will pay what it owes on your bills first. The primary payer might be Medicare or your company’s insurance. It will be important to check with your insurance to determine if they will pay first or not. After this step, the secondary payer pays up to its coverage limits on the remainder of the bill.
It’s important to remember that this does not necessarily mean that the secondary payer will cover all of your remaining costs. You must understand your Medicare coverage as well as your employer-sponsored coverage to understand the coverage limits, as well as your own financial responsibilities to your medical expenses.
So, What Do I Do?
Ultimately, it’s your decision to either enroll in Medicare while you’re still working or wait until after retirement. Whether or not you decide to wait, we highly encourage you to enroll in Part A as soon as you become eligible. This way, you’re able to get potentially free coverage as soon as you’re able. For all other parts of Medicare, you might want to check with your employer to see if your current coverage is sufficient. In some cases, it may or may not benefit you to enroll in Medicare before retirement.
Either way, don’t stress about the decision; you’ll get proper coverage for your needs.