Some Common Medicare Qualification Myths
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“Qualifying for Medicare” actually means something very specific. Many people think that if they haven’t paid into the system by paying enough payroll taxes while working, they’re not eligible for any Medicare benefits.
But that’s not true. Those payroll taxes only cover Part A premiums; in other words, they allow you to get Part A services without paying monthly premiums for them. But even if you’re not entitled to premium-free Part A, you can still get Part B and Part D services by paying premiums for them just like everybody else.
And even if you haven’t worked long enough to get premium-free Part A, you may be able to qualify on the work record of your spouse (current, divorced, or deceased). Otherwise, you may have the option to receive Part A benefits by paying monthly premiums for them.
Here are a few other points that often confuse people:
The law doesn’t force you to take Medicare Part B (which requires monthly premiums) at 65 or any other age. If you want to sidestep it completely, that’s up to you. (However, if you change your mind later on, after your enrollment deadline has passed, you’ll face costly consequences such as late penalties.)
You can enroll in Medicare at age 65 or later even if you haven’t begun receiving Social Security or railroad retirement benefits.
You can delay enrolling in Part B beyond age 65 for as long as you’re covered by health insurance provided by an employer for whom you or your spouse is actively working, provided that the employer has 20 or more employees.
These points are really enrollment issues. But it is necessary to emphasize them here too because so much guidance written about Medicare eligibility gives the impression that all people are obliged to sign up as soon as they hit 65, which isn’t necessarily so.