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Eligible for Medicare but employed with health benefits?

5-28-10  Should you enroll in Medicare if you are approaching 65, but still working and receiving employer health insurance benefits? According to the Medicare Rights Center, the answer depends on whether your employer insurance will be the primary payer of your health bills or the secondary payer. (A secondary payer will sometimes pay a portion of whatever balance is not paid by the primary payer.)

For people 65 and older, your employer's group health coverage is considered primary IF the employer has 20 or more employees. In this case, you can delay enrolling in Medicare without a penalty at any time you still have group health coverage, and for eight months after you lose group health coverage or you stop working, whichever comes first. (This applies only to a group health plan based on current employment, not based on retirement benefits from your employment.) It could be worth paying the annual Medicare Part B premiums for Medicare to be your secondary payer.

If your company has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare is considered the primary payer. You will need to enroll in Medicare when you first become eligible. If you have not yet enrolled, you should do so during your Initial Enrollment Period (a 7 month period including the 3 months before, the month of, and the 3 months following your 65th birthday). Don't delay enrollment. You can enroll only between January and March, with enrollment becoming effective in July, so delaying may mean risking not having any coverage for a period of time. Plus, you'll face a 10 percent premium penalty for each year that enrollment is delayed.

The Medicare Rights Center has information on Medicare and employer insurance. For details, click here .  

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