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Ask Ms. Medicare

Can You Be Penalized for Not Enrolling in Medicare, Even if You're Not Entitled to It?

Q. My husband hadn’t worked long enough to qualify for Medicare when he reached 65, so he waited to enroll on my work record when I turned 65. Now he must pay a Part B late penalty. Can you really be penalized for not joining Medicare when you weren’t even eligible for it?

A. Strangely enough, yes — in certain circumstances. It can happen under a little-known rule that could catch many people unaware.

The Social Security Administration, which administers Medicare enrollment, explains that someone who doesn’t qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A is nevertheless eligible for Part B at age 65 if he or she lives in the United States and is either a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant (green card holder) who has lived here for at least five years. They describe this as an “alternate requirement” for Medicare eligibility. … Back to Article

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