Q. Your questions often relate to Social Security benefits for spouses, especially lower income-earning spouses, or spouses who have not worked. Does Medicare have similar considerations? I have worked all my life. My spouse worked for a few years and then cared for our children. Will he be eligible for Medicare? –Carrie
A. There are plenty of families in your situation when it comes to applying for Medicare, the government insurance program that covers more than 55 million Americans age 65 and over and those with certain disabilities. The answer generally is yes, your spouse can qualify for Medicare on your work record. Keep in mind, though, that Medicare is complex and “there are always ifs,” said Patricia Barry, author of “Medicare for Dummies.”
First, a step back: What we’re talking about when we say “qualify for Medicare” is eligibility for Part A hospital coverage, which is free to workers who have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. To meet that requirement, you must earn at least 40 credits during your working life, or the equivalent of about 10 years of work. (Those receiving Social Security disability payments may also qualify.) Spouses of eligible workers are also covered, as well as divorced and surviving spouses who meet certain conditions. But people without the required work history must pay up to $411 per month for Part A premiums.
For anyone who is eligible for Medicare, Part B, which covers doctors’ visits and other outpatient services, requires a premium, not a work history. Most beneficiaries pay premiums of $104.90 per month, while new beneficiaries and higher earners pay more.
Now, here are some “ifs” that might affect your particular situation. To qualify for premium-free Part A, your spouse must be 65 or older, and you must be at least 62. If you are under age 62, he must pay Part A premiums until you reach that age.
Also, you must have been married for at least one year for him to apply for Medicare on your work record. This requirement applies to married same-sex couples as well, who are eligible to apply for benefits on their spouse’s record.
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To sign up for Medicare, you can go to Medicare.gov—you can find enrollment tips here. Be sure to shop for Part D drug coverage too, as well as a Medigap plan. Or you may want to consider an all-in-one Medicare Advantage plan; just be aware of the limits and risks.