If you are age 65 – or you soon will be – it is likely that you have many questions regarding retirement income, as well as your possible health care coverage going forward. For many people, these benefits are provided through Social Security and Medicare.
While Medicare and Social Security are not the same thing, these programs do share a number of similarities – including the fact that many Americans who are age 65 and older receive benefits simultaneously from both. In fact, Medicare is considered to be a part of the Social Security program.
The Social Security program was initially enacted in 1935. This government-run retirement income program is available to those who have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least ten years (or 40 “quarters”).
In addition to paying a monthly retirement income benefit, Social Security can also provide disability income to qualifying beneficiaries, benefits to spouses of eligible workers, and / or benefits to survivors of Social Security recipients.
Medicare is also run by the U.S. government. This program, however, focuses on health care coverage for eligible participants who are age 65 and over, as well as those who are under the age of 65 and have certain disabling health conditions.
Original Medicare consists of Medicare Part A and Part B. Medicare Part A provides benefits for a wide range of hospitalization services, while Part B of Medicare pays for doctor visits, durable medical equipment and supplies, and other non-hospital related items and services.
Most people who qualify for Medicare will be able to receive Part A at no premium cost. There is, however, a monthly premium required for Medicare Part B. The amount of this premium may be dependent on how much income the enrollee earns.
Provided that you are age 65 or over and you are also eligible for monthly Social Security benefits (regardless of whether or not you are actually receiving them yet), you will be considered eligible for Medicare.
You may also be eligible for Medicare if you have worked for the government and you would qualify to receive a monthly Social Security benefit if your employer had been covered under the Social Security program.
Although the Medicare and Social Security program overlap in many ways, there are differences in terms of when you can apply for your benefits. For example, eligible individuals may start receiving their Social Security retirement benefits (at a permanently reduced amount) as early as age 62. Alternatively, you could wait until age 70 to begin the receipt of your Social Security retirement income. In going this route, the amount of your monthly benefit will be higher.
If you are already receiving your Social Security benefits, you don’t need to worry about enrolling in Medicare, as you will automatically be enrolled in both Part A and B at age 65. However, if you are enrolled in an employer-sponsored health insurance plan when you turn age 65, you could opt to wait to enroll in Medicare Part B until a later time without incurring a penalty.