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When you can sign up for Medicare if you're still working: What you need to know

It's tricky to know when you can sign up for Medicare if you're still working. If you or your spouse plan to work past 65, get to know your Medicare options. Then, to decide when to enroll in Medicare.

Have a plan in place before you enroll. It begins three months before your 65th birthday month and lasts for seven months. If you don’t have a plan, you could get a Medicare late enrollment penalty.

The advice here will help you know when you can sign up for Medicare if you're still working:

It's important to know how many people work for your employer

When your turn 65, and want to enroll in Medicare, it's important to know how many employees work at your company.

At small companies, your employer may require that you enroll in Medicare. In that case, Medicare becomes your main insurance, and your employer plan provides secondary coverage. Your best plan is to join Medicare during the open enrollment period.

In larger companies, you have more options. You can use Medicare as your health insurance. Your employer can help you understand how Medicare and the company's health plan work together. Another option is to accept your company's health plan and delay your enrollment in Medicare Parts A and/or B.

Make sure you're covered before delaying Medicare enrollment

Before delaying Medicare Parts A and B, check with your benefits manager to make sure that you have group health plan coverage (as defined by the IRS). If your company's health coverage comes from retiree benefits or COBRA, you cannot delay Medicare enrollment without penalty.

If you don't want Medicare Part D, you'll need to get prescription drug coverage through your employer. If eligible, you can also get your drug coverage through the Veteran's Administration. Check with your insurance company to make sure your prescription drug company is "creditable" (equal to or better than what Medicare is offering). Without this drug coverage, you may pay a penalty when you join Part D.

Determine the cost of enrolling in Medicare Part A

If you've worked for 10 years or more and paid your Medicare tax during that time, you may qualify for a premium-free Medicare Part A.

There's one reason to consider delaying Medicare Part A. If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), and enroll in Part A, you can't contribute to your HSA. Your employer may also stop adding money to your HSA. Talk with your company's human resources department to see if enrolling Medicare Part A will change your benefits.

Know what's required to delay Medicare Part B

If you receive coverage through your employer's group health plan, you don't need the Medicare Part B coverage (or the added cost). You can delay Medicare Part B without a penalty.

If you're not 65 and get benefits through Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), you'll be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. If you don't want Part B, follow the instructions on your red, white and blue Medicare card.

Know how to avoid the Medicare late enrollment penalty 

The Medicare special enrollment period (SEP) lets you avoid the Medicare late enrollment penalty. To do this:

  • You or your spouse must be currently employed.
  • You or your spouse must work at a company with more than 20 employees
  • The employer must participate in an IRS-approved group health plan.

You'll need to enroll in Medicare within eight months of retiring or when your employer's group health plan ends. If you don't, you may receive a Medicare late enrollment penalty. You also may not be covered by during this time.

Turn to Highmark for answers to your Medicare questions

To decide when you should enroll in Medicare if you are working past 65, schedule a personal consultation with a Highmark Licensed Medicare Advisor or call 877-421-0095 (TTY users may call 711). October 1 - March 31, 8am - 8pm, 7 days a week; April 1 - September 30, 8 am - 8 pm Monday through Friday.


Know when to sign up for Medicare if still working

Once you understand the Medicare options for your work situation, you'll be able to make a personalized plan for your Medicare enrollment