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Being in a domestic partnership means living as a couple with a person of the same or opposite sex without being formally married. In this situation, many people receive health insurance from their partner’s employer and assume that they can continue to do so after becoming Medicare-eligible, just like married people can. That is not so, except in the following circumstances:

  • Medicare allows you to delay Part B enrollment after age 65 and have a special enrollment period to sign up without penalty when your partner stops work or loses primary employer health benefits, as long as you meet two conditions:
    • Your domestic partner is the opposite sex.
    • You live in one of the few states that accept common law marriages and your domestic partnership meets the legal definition of common law marriage where you live.
  • Medicare allows the same exception if you are under age 65 and have Medicare through disability, as long as you meet two conditions:
    • Your partner’s employer has 100 or more employees.
    • You’re accepted on your partner’s employer insurance as a “family member” — even if you aren’t legally married to the employee and regardless of whether he or she is the same or opposite sex to you.

If you do not meet these conditions, you will not be entitled to a special enrollment period to sign up for Part B without penalty when your partner’s employment ends. Instead, you should sign up during your seven-month initial enrollment period.

Note that couples of the same sex who are legally married under the laws of their state or country have the same rights as any married couples, anywhere in the United States. This includes the right to delay Part B and use a special enrollment period to sign up without penalty when coverage from their spouse’s employment ends — provided that the coverage is primary. 


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