by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA
Most people get Medicare when they turn 65. You qualify for it automatically if you're eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits. Or you may qualify on a spouse's (including divorced spouse's) record. Others qualify because they are government employees not covered by Social Security who paid the Medicare part of the Social Security tax.
In addition, if you've been getting Social Security disability benefits for 24 months or get Social Security disability benefits and have amyotropic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gherig's disease), you'll qualify for Medicare.
If you are already getting Social Security benefits, you'll automatically be enrolled in Medicare (although you have the opportunity to turn down Part B). You will receive information by mail shortly before you become eligible.
When you turn 65, you should call or visit a Social Security office three months prior to your birthday so they can help you decide if you should sign up for Medicare. You should do this even if you plan to continue working or do not think you have enough work credit under Social Security because Medicare enrollment period rules are very strict.
Savvy Ladies’ Tip: You can apply for retirement benefits online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyforbenefits. If you would like to file for Medicare only, you can apply by calling 1-800-772-1213.