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Do I qualify for Medicare if I’ve never worked?

Just the essentials...
  • You can sometimes qualify for Medicare if you have never worked, based on your spouse’s work history
  • You cannot qualify for your spouse’s benefits if you developed a disability before the age of 65
  • You can qualify under certain circumstances even if you are divorced or your spouse has passed away
  • Even if you do not qualify for Medicare Part A based on you or your spouse’s work history, you can typically still receive the benefits if you pay a premium

The amount of time you have worked is only relevant for receiving Medicare Part A benefits, which are hospital benefits. You need to have earned about 40 credits by paying Medicare and Social Security payroll taxes in order to qualify for Medicare Part A without paying the premium.

These 40 credits are roughly equivalent to ten years of work paying payroll taxes. These do not affect your ability to get Medicare Part B, which is medical coverage for visits to doctor’s offices and outpatient care, coverage for medical equipment, and Medicare Part D, which is coverage for prescriptions. Most people have to pay into these services, regardless of work history.

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What if I haven’t worked long enough or at all? Medicare part A paper on money

If you haven’t worked enough in your lifetime to earn the necessary 40 credits, it may be possible to qualify for Medicare Part A benefits based on your spouse’s work history.

In order to qualify for this provision, you must be 65 or older and your spouse must be at least 62 or older. In some cases, you can still receive the benefits if you are 65 and divorced or if you are a widow.

If you are currently married and your spouse qualifies for social security benefits and Medicare Part A premiums, you can apply as long as you have been married for at least a year prior to submitting the application.

If you are divorced, you may be eligible if your former spouse is, as long as you were married for at least ten years. You must also be currently single.

You can also qualify if your spouse has passed away. You must have been married for at least nine months before the death of your spouse and you must be single.

Buying into Medicare Part A Premiums

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If you do not qualify based on your own work history or the credits of your spouse, it is still possible to pay for your Medicare Part A premiums and receive coverage.

In order to get these benefits, you must be at least 65 years of age and a United States citizen or a legal resident in the United States for a minimum of five years.

The amount of money that you have to pay into your premium will depend on your work history.

If you have less than 30 work credits, you will pay the maximum premium amount for the year, which was $422.00 in 2018. If you have more than 30 credits, but less than 40 credits, you will be able to pay a slightly smaller amount at around $232.00 (per 2018 costs).

You also have the option to continue working after you reach the age of 65 until you have earned the necessary 40 credits, in which case you will qualify for the free premium and Medicare Part A benefits.

How does buying into Part A affect other Medicare programs?

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If you pay your Medicare Part A premium, you will not have to pay more for your Part B or Part D coverage. It is possible to only enroll in Part B and not pay for Part A if your work history did not make you eligible for the free benefits. However, if you pay the premium for Part A, you must also enroll in Part B and pay those premiums, as well.

You can purchase part D if you are enrolled in either A or B. You may not enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or get Medigap supplemental insurance coverage if you are not enrolled in both parts A and B.

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References:
  1. http://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-04-2008/ask_ms__medicare_9.html, “What If I Haven’t Worked Long Enough to Qualify for Medicare?” Nov 21, 2016.
  2. https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/get-parts-a-and-b/when-how-to-sign-up-for-part-a-and-part-b.html, “How do I get Parts A & B?,” Mar 15, 2018.
  3. https://www.medicare.gov/part-d/, “Drug coverage (Part D),” Mar 15, 2018.
  4. https://www.medicareinteractive.org/get-answers/how-original-medicare-works/original-medicare-cost-overview/under-what-conditions-would-my-spouses-work-history-qualify-me-for-premium-free-part-a, “Qualifying for premium-free Part A based on your spouse’s work history,” Nov 21, 2016.
  5. https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-a-costs/part-a-costs.html, “Part A costs,” Mar 15, 2018.
  6. https://www.medicare.gov/supplement-other-insurance/medigap/whats-medigap.html, “What’s Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap)?,” Mar 15, 2018.
  7. http://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-04-2011/medicare-eligibility.html, “Do You Qualify for Medicare?” Nov 21, 2016.

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