Often, seniors choose to enroll in Original Medicare when they are first eligible, at age 65 during their Initial Enrollment Period. However, you are not required to, and many don’t. If you are eligible to receive Social Security benefits, then Medicare Part A is free, but Part B carries a premium. Working seniors often delay Medicare enrollment until retirement, preferring to rely on group health coverage offered through work. If you’re past 65, getting ready to retire and not enrolled in Part A or Part B, you may be wondering what to do next. Here is some good advice.
Getting Medicare Part A and Part B After Age 65
Part A—you can sign up anytime after Initial Enrollment
As long as you receive Social Security benefits, Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) is free, and there are no restrictions on when you can sign up. While many people join during Initial Enrollment, if you didn’t, that’s okay. You can enroll in Part A anytime during or after your Initial Enrollment period without penalty.
Part B—a Special Enrollment Period may be available
If you’re over 65 without Part B coverage, there is some good news. When you retire and your employer-provided benefits come to an end, you may be entitled to a Special Enrollment Period—an 8-month period of time when you can sign up for Medicare Part B without paying a penalty. This Special Enrollment Period starts at the end of the month you stop working or lose employer insurance, whichever comes first.
To be eligible for a Special Enrollment, your company must have at least 20 employees. If they do not, then you will need to enroll in Part B during General Enrollment. And you may pay an increased premium— a lifetime late enrollment penalty for each 12-month period of time you were eligible, but did not enroll in Part B.
If You’re Retiring, But Your Spouse Is Not
If you didn’t sign up for Part B because you had group health coverage from an employer, that’s okay. Now that you are planning to retire, the same Special Enrollment applies and both you and your spouse will have a full 8 months to enroll in Medicare Part B without paying a penalty.
If you retire, but will be gaining group health benefits from your spouse, then you will still be covered under what Medicare defines as “current employment” and you do not need to enroll in Medicare Part B. Note: Medicare does not classify COBRA and retiree benefits as current employment, and you will not be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period when you choose to enroll. If you are planning on taking retiree coverage from a former employer, you should enroll in Part A and Part B.
https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Find-Your-Provider-Type/Employers-and-Unions/FS4-Medicare-for-people-over-65-nearing-retirment.pdf page 2, 3, 4