Social Security and Medicare are tied together in some ways, but in others they are separate. In this post, we’ll go over what you need to know about how the two are tied. Many people think you must enroll in Social Security before you can take Medicare, and fortunately, that’s not the case.
When to Start Your Social Security
Here in America, you are eligible to begin taking Social Security benefits as early as age 62 if you have earned enough credits. The latest that you can start your benefits is at age 70.
If you begin your Social Security benefits at age 62, your benefits will be reduced based on the number of months that you receive your benefits before you have reached your full retirement age.
Your full retirement age in terms of Social Security is generally considered to be at age 66 and a half. However, this varies based on the year that you were born. Visit this page on the Social Security website for more specifics.
In very simple terms, taking income benefits earlier than your full retirement ages means that your monthly benefit amount will be lower. Waiting and taking those benefits later, up to age 70, means you will have a larger monthly benefit check.
Delaying your Social Security income benefits does not affect your eligibility for Medicare at age 65 either.
When to Start your Medicare Benefits
Unlike Social Security, Medicare is a program in which you cannot enroll until you turn 65, unless you have a disability that qualifies you to take it earlier. So even if you start your Social Security benefits at age 62 you will not age into Medicare until age 65.
Most people enroll in Medicare at 65, but some people who are still working will delay their benefits for outpatient and drug coverage. We’ll explain more on this below.
Auto-Enrollment into Medicare
If you begin to start taking your Social Security income benefits prior to age 65, the government will assume you have retired. They will therefore automatically enroll you into both Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65. Your Medicare ID card will show up in your mailbox about 1 -2 months before you turn 65.
Now in this situation, if you are actually still working and do not want the automatic Medicare benefits you can contact Medicare to delay Part B as long as the employer providing your group health coverage has more than 20 employees and is therefore functioning as primary to Medicare.
You will keep Part A, however, because once you are age 65, you cannot have Social Security income benefits without Part A.
Most people pay nothing for Medicare Part A, so this is usually not problematic. If you have a hospital stay while you are still working, you will find that Medicare Part A may even help to pay for some of your inpatient expenses because Part A coordinates with your employer coverage.
The reason Medicare Part A costs nothing for most beneficiaries is that you have already paid taxes during your working life toward those benefits.
Delaying Parts B and D you can save those premiums and later on when you lose that employer coverage and Medicare becomes primary, you’ll have an opportunity to add Parts B and D at that time.
Keep in mind though that if your employer coverage is through a small employer, Medicare is primary. In that scenario, you would want to keep both Parts A and B and your employer coverage would pay secondary.
How Social Security Triggers Part A
In the way that our laws are written, once you turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare, you cannot enroll in Social Security without triggering Part A. The two coverages are irrevocably linked. Now, this is ok for most people who don’t mind activating Part A since they don’t pay premiums for that part.
However, some people wish to delay enrollment into Part A because they are contributing to an H.S.A. account. The IRS will not allow you to continue contributions into a health savings accounts if you have any part of Medicare active. That means that if you plan to contribute after you turn 65, you must not enroll in Social Security because it will automatically trigger your Part A benefits with Medicare.
This would be the one scenario where not enrolling into any part of Medicare at age 65 would make sense.
So can you get Medicare without Social Security? You certainly can, and many people enroll in Medicare at age 65 while also waiting to take Social Security income benefits later on.
All of these rules can be quite tricky to keep straight, so it is advised that you consult a financial planner about when would be the right time for you to begin taking your income benefits.
If you need help with enrolling in Medicare, look no further. Here at Boomer Benefits, we help baby boomers with their Medicare decisions in 47 states.