This is a common question we receive in our call center and on or social media accounts and it is a great question.
Social Security and Medicare are separate decisions, and you do not need to sign up for both programs at the same time. The Social Security full retirement age is 66, however the Medicare eligibility age is 65.
Many people choose to take Social Security earlier than age 66, but there is a downfall for taking it earlier as there will be a reduction in monthly benefits. However some retirees will choose to take their Social Security even later in order to qualify for a larger monthly payment. Since the Medicare eligibility age is 65, if you wait until age 66 or later to claim your Social Security you will have to sign up for Medicare separately at age 65 unless you have other Creditable Coverage.
If you are not receiving Social Security benefits when you turn age 65 you will want to be sure that you sign up for Medicare as soon as you are eligible in order to avoid penalties. You first become eligible to sign up for Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period, this is the seven month period that begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends the three months after your 65th birthday. Certain parts of Medicare carry penalties that may leave you paying higher premium amounts for the rest of your life if you do not enroll in Medicare on time.
There is an exception to the rule if you are aged 65 and still working and have health insurance through your employer (or your spouses employment), and your company employs 20 or more people. In that case you do not have to enroll in Medicare right away, as long as the coverage is Creditable. In this case you will get a special enrollment period that begins once you leave your job, or your group health plan is terminated.
Those who are receiving Social Security before age 66 are often automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B with coverage beginning the month they turn 65. A red, white and blue Medicare card and a Welcome packet will generally arrive in the mail 3 months before a beneficiary’s 65th birthday and premiums are withheld from their Social Security check.
While it pays to hold off on Social Security as long as possible to ensure you get the most out of your benefits, delaying Medicare is a different story. If you have questions about Medicare enrollment, give one of our trusted agents a call and we can help.