If you retire when you're 64, you might have to find a short-term health insurance policy to cover you until you turn age 65. Unless you're disabled and meet certain requirements, you're not covered by Medicare until the month you turn 65. However, you should still apply for Medicare coverage before you turn 65. Medicare hospitalization insurance is free, but insurance for doctors and other services requires a monthly premium.
When to Apply for Medicare
Whether you're working or retired, you should apply for Medicare while you're still 64, ideally about three months prior to your 65th birthday, even if you don't plan to start taking Social Security benefits when you're 65. If you've worked and paid into the Medicare program, you're eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance, also called Medicare Part A. Medicare Part A covers hospitalization, a stay at a skilled nursing facility after hospitalization, and certain home health care and hospice care services.
When to Purchase Medicare Part B
When you sign up for Medicare Part A, you have the option to purchase Medicare medical insurance, or Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B covers doctors, medical services and supplies that aren't covered by Part A. While Medicare Part A is free, you must pay a monthly premium for Part B. However, if you don't enroll in Part B from age 64 and nine months to age 65 and three months, you cannot enroll until January of the following year, and your premium increases by 10 percent for every year you were eligible but didn't enroll.
Alternatives When Already Covered by a Group Policy
If your former employer provides post-retirement health care benefits, there is an exception to the waiting period and premium penalty outlined in Section 2. This exception comes into play if you're still covered by a group health insurance plan, as long as that coverage continues for at least three months after you turn 65.You can enroll in Medicare Part B any month while you're still covered by your former employer's plan, or within eight months after your coverage ends. If you wait longer than eight months to enroll, or your coverage ends before you turn 65 and four months, the 10 percent penalty and waiting period apply.
How to Receive Medicare Benefits Before Age 65
If you're receiving Social Security disability because of Lou Gehrig's disease; or you have been eligible for Social Security disability for a different condition for at least two years; or if you paid into the Medicare program and your dependent child, widow or widower age 50 or older meets the Social Security disability requirements; or if you paid into the Medicare program and you, your child or your spouse has permanent kidney failure and is on dialysis or has a kidney transplant, and qualifies for Social Security disability; then you or the disabled individual might be eligible for free Medicare Part A coverage regardless of age.
Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.