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Medicare isn’t automatic for everyone. Similar to Social Security, you have to pay into Medicare to be able to use it. However, if you’re eligible, this should be your primary health insurance during your senior years. For most of us, it’s the least expensive and most comprehensive protection out there.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “Do You Have to Sign Up for Medicare?” says that you’ve been paying for it all these years, so you might as well use it. However, you aren’t required to use it.

Medicare has several parts. Part A covers hospitalization. It doesn’t have a monthly premium, so there’s really no good reason to not enroll. You can sign up for Part A alone.

Part B covers doctor visits. This part does have a monthly premium based on your income. Since this cost can be substantial (the standard minimum monthly premium for 2021 is $148.50), when seniors talk about delaying Medicare, they’re really talking about delaying Part B.

You should enroll if you’re not working and not covered by someone else, such as a spouse. You’re going to need health insurance, especially when you’re 65-plus.

You have a seven-month period — three months before you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and three months after — to sign up for Medicare. If you don’t do so during that time and want to sign up later, you’ll pay a penalty of higher monthly premiums for life.

When you sign up for Social Security, you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare, so you won’t have to worry about it. However, there are situations when delaying enrollment makes sense and is penalty-free. If you’re working after age 65 and are fully covered by your employer, there’s no sense paying for Medicare Part B. Likewise, if you’re covered by your spouse.

However, Medicare rules differ depending on how many employees your employer has. If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, employees participating in the company health insurance must enroll in Medicare when they become eligible because it’ll be your primary insurance. Any employer-provided insurance is secondary.

If your employer has 20-plus employees, they can’t require, or even encourage, you to sign up for Medicare. The employer’s policy is the primary source of coverage, and Medicare is secondary. If you have enough coverage at work, you can delay signing up without a penalty.

Therefore, you can forgo Medicare if you have insurance elsewhere and you’re either actively employed by an employer with 20-plus employees or covered by someone else’s insurance. Once it ends, you have eight months to apply for Medicare without penalty. If you are not working elsewhere, you don’t have health insurance and you’re eligible for Medicare, you may not be required by law to sign up, but you should. So, enroll unless you’re already covered.

Reference: Money Talks News (April 13, 2021) “Do You Have to Sign Up for Medicare?”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Medicare, Social Security