Dear Insurance Adviser,
I am 69 years old and have health insurance under my wife's plan. I am not using Medicare. Should I apply for Medicare now, even though I don't need it at this time?
Dear Kim and Robert,
First, about Medicare, there are three parts: Part A, hospital coverage; Part B, doctor and other coverage; and Part D, drug coverage. Part A hospital coverage is provided free to nearly every American at age 65. I'm going to assume you have Part A already. The usual advice is to apply for that three months before you turn 65.
Many Americans are continuing to work past age 65. The question that often arises is: Should you take Parts B and D -- both of which you'd have to pay for? If you don't take them at age 65, when you have an open enrollment period, will you be penalized or perhaps not have pre-existing conditions covered if you sign up later? The answer is generally no, if the reason for the delay is that you have health insurance at work. When you leave that coverage for whatever reason, you will have a full Medicare open enrollment available to you as if you were 65 -- with no penalties at all.
As a general rule, if your employer is paying your health care premiums, you're usually better off deferring your enrollment in Medicare parts B and D until you no longer have group insurance, or until you retire. If the employer doesn't pay your entire premium, then the decision is not so easy. You can check with a free counselor at your local Social Security office or find tools online at Medicare.gov.
Personally, I recommend that you talk to a health insurance agent or financial planner who is an expert on Medicare and Medicare products for help with the pros and cons of your personal decision.