Medicare Eligibility for a Non-Working Spouse

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  • A non-working spouse can qualify for Medicare, depending on their age, disability status or whether they have a qualifying health condition. Depending on their spouse’s work history, they may even qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A. Learn more about Medicare eligibility rules concerning a spouse who has met Medicare work requirements.

Social Security requires you to have worked a minimum number of years to qualify for benefits. Medicare works differently, however.

Medicare can be available to anyone – including a non-working spouse – who is at least 65 years old and a U.S. citizen or legal resident of at least five years. You may even qualify for Medicare before 65 if you have a qualifying disability or health condition.

If you haven’t met the minimum work requirements to receive premium-free Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), you may still qualify for Part A coverage, though you’ll have to pay a monthly premium. Depending on your age and your partner’s age, you may qualify for premium-free Part A if you haven’t met the minimum work requirements yourself, as long as your spouse satisfies Medicare’s work requirements.

Does a Non-Working Spouse Qualify for Medicare?

Regardless of your work status or that of your spouse, you may qualify for Medicare if you are a U.S. citizen or legal resident for at least five years and are 65 years old (or are younger but have a qualifying disability).

To qualify for Medicare without having to pay a monthly premium for Part A hospital insurance coverage, you or your spouse must have worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters, which is the equivalent of 10 years.

So if you have not accrued 40 quarters of paying Medicare taxes but your spouse has, you will still qualify for Medicare. And not only will you be eligible for Medicare coverage, but you will qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A, which means you won’t pay any monthly premiums for Part A. You will also be eligible to enroll in Medicare Part B (medical insurance), for which everyone pays a monthly premium.

Once you are enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and B), you are then eligible to apply for private Medicare plans such as Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D and Medicare Supplement Insurance plans.

It’s important to note that Medicare only covers each individual separately. Unlike an employer-sponsored health plan that can cover all members of a household, each partner must enroll in Medicare separately and maintain their own individual policy.

Can You Get Medicare If You Have Never Worked?

As outlined above, you may still get Medicare even if you have never worked a day in your life. You may even potentially qualify for premium-free Part A, provided that your spouse has paid Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters and meets all other Medicare eligibility requirements. Those 40 quarters do not need to be consecutive.

How Does a Spouse Sign Up for Medicare?

Anyone who is eligible for Medicare but isn’t receiving Social Security retirement benefits at least four months before they turn 65 may need to sign up for Medicare manually by visiting their local Social Security office or by calling the Social Security Administration at 800-325-0778 to confirm their eligibility.

Regardless of whether you or your spouse have worked for 10 years, you should enroll in Medicare when you first become eligible, whether that’s around your 65th birthday or earlier due to a qualifying disability.

What If the Working Spouse Is Not Yet 65 Years Old?

A non-working spouse can receive premium-free Medicare part A as long as the other partner is at least 62 years old and has satisfied Medicare’s work requirements.

For example, John is 65 years old and has never worked or paid Medicare taxes. His wife, Cathy, is 62 years old and has worked and paid Medicare taxes for more than 10 years.

In this scenario, John is eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A based on Cathy’s work history. He may enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B now, at age 65, even though Cathy must wait until she turns 65 to enroll in Medicare herself.

Now let’s say Cathy is only 61 years old. In this scenario, John may still enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B, but he won’t be entitled to premium-free Part A until Cathy turns 62.

Where Can I Get More Information About My Medicare eligibility?

If you have lingering questions about the Medicare eligibility of yourself or your spouse, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to speak to a Medicare representative.

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