Don’t Qualify for Social Security? You Can Still Sign Up for Medicare — But Plan Ahead

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Whether you don’t yet wish to collect Social Security benefits or simply aren’t qualified to receive them (for instance, an insufficient work history), those aged 65 and over do not need to be on Social Security in order to sign up for Medicare.

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However, the government will not automatically enroll people in Medicare programs if they’re not enrolled to collect Social Security benefits, so they need to act soon before they turn 65, or soon after.

Individuals can enroll in Medicare parts A, B and D up to three months before the month they turn 65, or as late as three months after that month. If one doesn’t sign up during that seven-month window — known as the “initial enrollment period” — they may be subject to late enrollment penalties. One may also pay higher premiums on prescription drugs through Medicare part D.

Here’s what each part of Medicare covers, and how much it costs:

Part A

Cost: Free

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Part A covers the following, in general:

  • Inpatient care in a hospital
  • Skilled nursing facility care
  • Nursing home care (inpatient care in a skilled nursing facility that’s not custodial or long-term care)
  • Hospice care
  • Home health care

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Part B

Cost: $170.10 each month in 2022 and $164.90 in 2023, or higher depending on one’s income. This amount can change each year. Beneficiaries pay the premium each month, even if they don’t get any Part B-covered services.

Part B covers two types of services:

  • Medically necessary services: Services or supplies that are needed to diagnose or treat a medical condition and that meet accepted standards of medical practice
  • Preventive services: Health care to prevent illness or detect it at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to work best

Learn: How Much Does a Person on Social Security Make?
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Part D

Cost: Premiums vary by plan and the amount depends on income. According to Medicare Interactive, the average national premium is $33.37.

Part D covers a wide range of prescription drugs that people with Medicare take, including most drugs in certain protected classes. Drugs in each tier have a different cost.

Individuals can enroll in Medicare online, or by contacting Social Security.

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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