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On Medicare: Applying under husband’s benefits adds enrollment wrinkle

Dear Toni: I understand that starting Jan. 1 there are new Medicare enrollment rules when turning 65.

I have rheumatoid arthritis and my prescriptions are expensive. I turn 65 on Feb. 20 and need my Medicare to begin May 1; my husband is retiring and losing his company benefits as of that date.

I am a nonworking spouse and do not have enough work quarters to receive Medicare on my own. I do not know how to apply using my husband’s Medicare benefits. What do I do? — Mary Ann, Hempstead, Texas

Dear Mary Ann: The change to enrolling in Medicare when turning 65 involves the start date of your Medicare Part B coverage, which now begins the first day of the month after you sign up, if you sign up during the last three months of your initial enrollment period.

(Before this change, if you signed up during the last three months of your IEP, your Medicare Part B coverage started two to three months after you enrolled.)

It is so important to ensure you enroll in Medicare correctly. Because you are short the 40 quarters of working and paying taxes to qualify under your Social Security number for Medicare, you will have to qualify under your husband’s Social Security number for Medicare (assuming he has the 40 quarters to qualify).

Call your local Social Security office or Social Security’s main number at 800-772-1213 to arrange an appointment, either over the phone or at a local Social Security office, and ask how to apply under your husband’s work record. You will need an original certified marriage license to show Social Security that you are married.

Set up a ssa.gov account prior to talking with a Social Security representative. Social Security will want you to enroll in Medicare online by visiting ssa.gov/benefits/medicare. You may go online and enroll in Medicare while talking with the representative who is guiding you through this process. Because you are short of the 40 work quarters, the process is a bit more complicated than for someone who is turning 65 and applying using their own benefits.

Medicare’s IEP is the seven-month period that comprises the three months before your 65th birthday, the month you turn 65 and the three months afterward.

Since you want your Medicare to begin May 1, I would advise you to enroll in Medicare in April, and that is when you would want to schedule your appointment with Social Security to explain your enrollment situation of not having enough quarters.

Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. For a Medicare checkup, email info@tonisays.com or call 832-519-8664.

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