Most people become eligible for Medicare for the first time at age 65, and many individuals are still working full-time at this point in their lives. If this sounds like you, you’ll need to decide whether to take Medicare, keep the health insurance you get through your employer, or opt for a combination of both.
When Do I Apply for Medicare If I’m Still Employed?
Whether or not you’re working, your first opportunity to sign up for Original Medicare (Parts A and B) is during your Initial Enrollment Period. The seven-month window begins three months before you turn 65, on the first day of that month. Your Initial Enrollment Period ends on the last day of the month, three months after your birthday month.
If you stick with employer coverage past when your Initial Enrollment Period ends, you’ll be entitled to a Special Enrollment Period when you drop your coverage. Meaning, you can sign up for Medicare whenever you lose coverage through your employer, whether voluntary or involuntary.
Each year, you also have a chance between January 1 and March 31 to pick up Original Medicare. This window is the General Enrollment Period, and if you sign up during this time, your coverage will start on July 1 of that year.
How Does Working Affect Medicare?
When you’re still working for an employer offering health care coverage and become eligible for Medicare, you’ll need to consider the size of your employer. A group plan for an organization with fewer than 20 employees isn’t creditable for Medicare. So, if you choose to stay on such a plan beyond when you become eligible, you’ll need to pay a penalty each month on top of your monthly Part B premium when you eventually enroll in Medicare.
However, if over 20 employees work for your organization, your coverage is creditable. Thus, you can delay enrollment in Part B and not face a penalty in the future. As for Part A, it’s wise to opt in – especially if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters, and you can get this coverage premium-free.
Additionally, those receiving Social Security are enrolled in Parts A and B automatically. So, if you have health insurance through your job with at least 20 employees and receive Social Security, you can terminate your Part B coverage until you’re ready by filling out form CMS-1763. This form allows you to request termination of medical insurance under Medicare.