Do You Have to Sign Up for Medicare at 65?

Medicare is not optional.
Medicare is not optional. (Image: Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Medicare provides insurance for people 65 years of age or older. Participation is not optional. However, you may be able to opt out of parts of Medicare if you have equivalent medical insurance coverage from other private insurers. Be sure you know how Medicare and your other insurance coverage will work together before opting out, or you could be stuck with hefty medical bills.

Enroll at Age 65

To avoid any possible late fees, plan to enroll in Medicare three months prior to your 65th birthday whether you intend to use the insurance or not. If you are planning to begin collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 65 you will enroll in Medicare at the same time you apply for those benefits. If you plan to keep working, apply for Medicare only.

Opt Out of Medicare Parts B & D

If you will keep working past 65, and your employer will continue to provide you with medical and prescription drug insurance, you may be able to opt out of enrolling in Medicare Parts B &D. Check with your human resources benefit coordinator to learn how your company's plan will work with Medicare. In some cases, once you are eligible for Medicare, your private insurance may only kick in to cover what Medicare does not. Because of this, once you qualify for Medicare the amount taken out of your payroll check for health premiums may decrease.

Late Enrollment Fees

Failing to enroll in either Part B or Part D when first eligible, directly or through a Part C advantage program, may result in late enrollment fees unless you were covered by another insurance plan through your employer or other source. When you leave your employer's plan, you have an enrollment grace period of eight months from when you last had coverage to enroll.

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