In a recent survey of folks age 60-64 commissioned by MassMutual in August, 8 out of 10 respondents (79 percent) did not understand that a spouse age 65, who did not pay Medicare taxes, does qualify for Medicare because they are married to a worker who did pay Medicare taxes.
Likewise, in another survey commissioned by MassMutual in May with adults age 50+, nearly half (46 percent) did not know that their spouse is eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits even if he or she has no individual earnings history.
Clearly, there is confusion with both programs.
Understanding the Medicare rules helps maximize the benefits at the lowest cost. If you fail to sign-up for Medicare at the correct age (3 months before you turn age 65, your birth month, and 3 months after), there can be premium penalties for life. There might also be gaps in coverage. Sickness and accidents happen at any time and being uninsured can lead to financial catastrophe!
Traditional Medicare does not pay for everything and oftentimes, Medigap supplements are needed to fill in the holes.
Help in understanding Medicare rules is literally a mouse click away. The www.medicare.gov web site is a powerful way to get answers. It is a far better option than asking a relative or just guessing at the right answer. The same goes for Social Security. Check out www.ssa.gov. It is a great resource.
It is ok to ask for help! The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) located in your state is one option or you can speak with a SHINE (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Elders — or Everyone in the Commonwealth of MA) counselor that is available in your area’s local Council on Aging by dialing 1-800-243-4636.
Because of the cost of making a mistake, you must get in front of the Medicare and Social Security decisions well before age 65. It is a good idea to start the learning process as soon as you can. Then when the magic age of retirement appears, it will be easy to get on the right track!
David Freitag, an industry veteran in financial services and wealth management, brings a deep passion and unparalleled knowledge of Social Security filing strategies and retirement income planning to his current role as a financial planning consultant for the Advanced Concepts Design Group of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). His also holds a Master of Education and Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Maryland.