Column, Money Matters

Still working at 65? Here’s what you need to know about Medicare

For the last half century, turning 65 stamped the time when you would leave your job, file for Social Security, begin your pension and enroll in Medicare. But is that the case anymore?

The retirement environment has changed. Full retirement age is now 66 or 67, corporate pensions have been replaced by 401(k) plans, and many baby boomers are working well into their 70s and beyond.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the eligibility age for Medicare. It is still 65 and most are required to enroll at 65 or face penalties.

There is an exception for those who are sill working (or spouse is still working) and covered by an employer group plan that covers 20 or more employees. In this case, you can continue to be covered by your employer (but check to be sure).

If you or your spouse don’t qualify for this exception and you don’t enroll in Medicare at age 65, you may be charged a late enrollment penalty. The penalty will be added to your regular Part B premium and continues for the rest of your life. The penalty is 10% of the premium for every 12 months you should have had Part B but didn’t.

The other consequence is greater – which is not having health insurance. Medicare is the primary payer of health care bills for everyone over 65. If you are not covered by a large company plan, the bill will be sent to Medicare — and if you don’t have Medicare, then Medicare won’t pay the bill. Also, any other individual policy you may have won’t pay the bill either because it is Medicare’s responsibility.

If you are still working past age 65, you should speak with your benefits administrator and current insurance company. Even if you stay with your current plan, you may want to apply for Medicare Part A which has no premium. The one thing you can’t do is ignore Medicare when you turn 65.

Kevin Theissen is the owner of HWC Financial in Ludlow.

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