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Coverage for Nonworking Spouses

Medicare is individual, not group/family, insurance. To get Medicare, a person must be eligible based on age or disability. Therefore, anyone who qualifies to receive Medicare can get it—regardless of work history.

However, Medicare is not free. Everyone pays premiums for Part B, and for Medicare Advantage (Part C), Part D (drug coverage), and Medigap/supplemental insurance if you choose that coverage.

Most people can enroll in Part A premium-free, based on work history, since Part A is paid for through payroll taxes. Under certain conditions, a spouse, divorced spouse, widow or widower, or a dependent parent may be eligible for Medicare premium-free Part A when they turn 65, based on their spouse’s work record.

I’m about to turn 65 and retire. My wife, who doesn’t work, is currently covered under my employer insurance, but she’s only 62. What will she do for insurance when I enroll in Medicare?

Because your wife is only 62, she cannot enroll in Medicare yet. She will need to buy some other form of coverage until she becomes eligible for Medicare.

One option is for your wife to explore buying coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace in your state. Depending on your household income, she may qualify for subsidies that can help offset the cost of insurance.

You may also want to speak with your current insurance plan about obtaining COBRA (continuation coverage) for your wife.

My non-working husband is about to turn 65 (I’m 63). Can he still get Medicare before me on my work record?

If you have worked for at least 10 years and paid Medicare (FICA) taxes, AND you are at least age 62, your spouse can get Medicare Parts A and B when he turns 65. If you have worked at least 10 years but are not yet age 62 when he turns age 65, he will not be eligible for premium-free Part A until you are age 62. He should still enroll in Medicare Parts B and D, however, in order to avoid a penalty later on.

However, if you are still working and your husband is covered under your group health plan, he could delay enrollment in Part B to avoid paying higher premiums.

Because these situations with non-working spouses can get complicated, you may want to get personal help in making enrollment decisions.

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