Turning 65 – Medicare & Retirement

If your 65th birthday is just around the corner, you might be thinking, “How do I sign up for Medicare?”  For many people the thought of Medicare seems complicated and confusing, but if you follow these simple guidelines you will have a nice seamless transition.  And it is important to make sure you are following the necessary steps to avoid any late enrollment penalties.


When do I sign up for Medicare?

You are eligible to sign up for Medicare 3 months prior to the month of your 65th birthday.  If you are already collecting Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits you will automatically be enrolled.  Your coverage begins the first day of the month of your 65th birthday. If you turn 65 on the first of the month, your coverage begins the month before your birthday.


If you are not already receiving Social Security benefits you will have to enroll yourself.  You have to option to sign up a few different ways so pick the one that makes you feel most comfortable


You can enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B in the following ways:

  • Online at www.SocialSecurity.gov.

  • By calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM.

  • In-person at your local Social Security office.

If you are receiving Social Security benefits at the time you enroll in Medicare, your Part B premium will be deducted automatically from your monthly check.

If you have not begun to receive Social Security yet, you will receive a quarterly bill for your premium, which you can pay several different ways.

Do I Have to Take Medicare If I Am Still Working?

A lot of people reach the age of Medicare eligibility and continue to work.  Many have health insurance through their employers.  If this sounds like you, you may still want to enroll in Medicare Part A.  There is no premium if you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.  Again, you have to be proactive and enroll yourself.

It is important for you to know that if you do intend to delay Medicare you understand that it really depends on number of employees in your organization.

If your employer has 20 or more employees:


For as long as you have health insurance from an employer for which you or your spouse actively works after you turn 65, you have the right to delay enrolling in Medicare until the employment or the coverage stops (whichever happens first). At that point, you’re entitled to a special enrollment period of up to eight months to sign up for Medicare without incurring any late penalties.


You can’t delay Medicare enrollment without penalty if your employer-sponsored coverage comes from retiree benefits or COBRA — which by definition do not count as active employment.


The law requires a large employer — one with at least 20 employees — to offer you (and your spouse) the same benefits that it offers to younger employees (and their spouses). It is entirely your choice (not the employer’s) whether to: 

(a) accept the employer health plan and delay Medicare enrollment; or

(b) decline the employer coverage and rely wholly on Medicare; or

(c) have both the employer coverage and Medicare’s at the same time. 


If your employer has fewer than 20 employees:


The laws that prohibit large insurers from requiring (or even persuading) Medicare-eligible employees to drop the employer plan and sign up for Medicare do not apply to companies and organizations that employ fewer than 20 people. In this situation, the employer decides.

If the employer does require you to enroll in Medicare, then Medicare automatically becomes primary and the employer plan provides secondary coverage. In other words, Medicare settles your medical bills first, and the employer plan only covers services that it covers but Medicare doesn’t. Therefore, if you fail to sign up for Medicare when required, you will essentially be left with no coverage. 

It’s therefore extremely important to ask the employer whether you are required to sign up for Medicare when you turn 65.  I highly recommend discussing this with your Human Resources department or benefits administrator for the most accurate answers.

Have more questions about Medicare?

Kendra Anderson