Who Is Eligible for Medicare?
Medicare is a federal healthcare insurance program that provides affordable coverage for specific groups.
This coverage can significantly reduce the out-of-pocket costs of receiving treatment in a hospital or outpatient setting, but you'll need to meet age- or health-related criteria to qualify.
People 65 or older or with certain disabilities or health conditions are eligible for Medicare. You are usually eligible for free Part A coverage (hospital insurance) if you or your spouse made Medicare tax contributions for a minimum of 10 years and you are at least 65 years old. If you meet the age requirements but can't show sufficient Medicare tax contributions, you may have to pay a premium for Part A coverage.
People younger than 65 may be entitled to free Part A benefits if they have end-stage renal disease. People of any age may qualify for Part A coverage if they receive Social Security or Railway Retirement Board benefits.
The same eligibility requirements apply to Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient services. All beneficiaries pay premiums for Part B coverage.
There's a common misconception that you can only enroll in Medicare after retiring. However, your employment status doesn't affect your Medicare eligibility if you meet the criteria. Therefore, you can sign up for Medicare and continue to work.
Whether it's a good idea to enroll in Medicare before retirement depends on your tax status and your existing healthcare insurance coverage. As Medicare Part A is free for many enrollees, you may as well sign up for it if you have paid Medicare taxes for long enough. However, sticking with your workplace insurance program may be more affordable if you don't qualify for premium-free coverage. People who work for companies with 20 employees or fewer should enroll in Medicare Part A as soon as they are eligible.
Whether you need Medicare Part B depends on your existing coverage, and you can receive Part A without Part B regardless of your company's size. Many people choose not to enroll in Part B if they have existing coverage because it isn't free.
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