Critter Corner: Do I Have to File for Medicare?

Dear Baxter,

I will turn 65 soon, but am still working full time. I was planning on retiring, but my husband died suddenly two years ago at the age of 70, so I will still need to work for several more years. I have good health insurance with my work. Do I have to file for Medicare?

Thanks!

Anita Fyle-Ornott

Dear Anita,

As long as you have a valid group employer health plan, you do not have to file for Medicare when you turn 65.

However, if you do not have a high-deductible health plan and HSA, you might want to enroll in Part A of Medicare, which covers hospital care. Part A charges no premiums to people who have worked enough to qualify for Social Security benefits. It can come in handy to cover some hospital expenses that are not fully paid by your employer health plan. However, Part A invalidates the use of an HSA health plan.

Also, you are likely eligible for Social Security Survivor Benefits. I don’t know if you’ve claimed it, but if you haven’t, you might want to do so. If the benefit amount is less than your own retirement benefits would be at age 70, you should file for these benefits right away. If your husband made a lot of money and your survivor benefit will be larger than your own retirement benefit, then you might want to wait to file for it until it reaches its maximum value when you turn 66.

You can file for these spousal benefits without jeopardizing your own retirement benefits later. Make sure that the person at Social Security you deal with understands that you are electing to claim only your survivor benefit. Depending on your total income, a portion of your Social Security benefits may be taxed.

Remember, if you haven’t planned for long-term care or incapacity, please make an appointment for a no-cost initial appointment with Mr. Farr.

Hope this is helpful!

Arf Arf,

Baxter

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