Yes. But you should be aware of the enrollment deadlines, as Social Security will not sign you up automatically at 65 for “traditional Medicare” — Part A (hospitalization) and Part B (health insurance) — as it typically does for people already collecting Social Security benefits. You’ll have to enroll yourself, either online or by contacting Social Security. (Medicare and Social Security are two separate programs, but the Social Security Administration runs enrollment for traditional Medicare.)
You can enroll in Medicare parts A, B and D (prescription-drug coverage) as early as three months before the month you turn 65 or as late as three months after the birthday month. (That’s called your initial enrollment period.) For example, if your 65th birthday is July 4, 2021, the initial enrollment window is open from April 1 until October 31.
Here’s why you need to be on top of your deadline: If you don’t sign up during those seven months, you may be subject to a permanent surcharge once you do enroll.
Part A is free if you qualify for Social Security, even if you have not claimed benefits yet, but Part B carries a premium. (In 2021, the standard Part B premium is $148.50 a month; it goes up for beneficiaries with incomes above $88,000 for someone who files an individual tax return and $176,000 for a married couple filing jointly.) If you are not yet receiving Social Security benefits, you will have to pay Medicare directly for Part B coverage. Once you are collecting Social Security, the premiums will be deducted from your monthly benefit payment.
If you decide to purchase a Part D prescription-drug plan, it’s best to do so during your initial enrollment period; otherwise you may pay a higher premium, permanently. Your Part D provider cannot deny coverage even if you are in poor health or have a preexisting condition. You can choose between paying Medicare directly or having Part D costs deducted from your Social Security payment.
Keep in mind
- The Medicare eligibility age of 65 no longer coincides with Social Security’s full retirement age (FRA) — the age when you qualify for 100 percent of the Social Security benefit calculated from your lifetime earnings. FRA was long set at 65 but it is gradually going up. For people born in 1955, it is 66 years and 2 months; it settles at 67 for people born in 1960 or later.
- Even if you don’t qualify for Social Security, you can sign up for Medicare at 65 as long you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. You will have to pay Medicare directly for all coverage, including Part A (unless you or your spouse are among the small number of state and local government employees who paid Medicare taxes but not Social Security taxes; in this case, you may be able to get Part A for free).
Updated December 24, 2020
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