Getting Medicare when you retire

If you (or your spouse) are getting ready to retire, or if you lose your job-based health insurance before you stop working, you have a limited time to sign up for Medicare without penalty. You may want to start thinking about signing up for Medicare a few months before you retire.

5 things to do before signing up for Medicare

  1. Ask the employer or benefits administrator how its retiree coverage works with Medicare. You’ll want to know if your (or your family’s) current benefits will change, if they offer retirement coverage or other supplemental coverage that works with Medicare, and if any drug coverage they offer is creditable drug coverage . Get questions to ask.
  2. Check when your current coverage ends and sign up for Medicare about a month earlier. Signing up for Medicare before your current coverage ends can help you avoid a gap in coverage.
  3. Ask the employer to fill out the employment form. You’ll need this extra form to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period to sign up without penalty.
  4. Find Medicare plans in your area, if you don’t have retiree coverage or if the employer doesn’t offer creditable drug coverage . If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare drug plan, coverage starts the first day of the next month.
  5. To avoid a tax penalty, you and your employer should stop contributing to your Health Savings Account (HSA) (if you have one) 6 months before you retire or apply for benefits from Social Security (or the Railroad Retirement Board).
    Why should I stop contributions before I retire?

When & how do I sign up for Medicare?

You can sign up anytime while you (or your spouse) are still working and you have health insurance through that employer. You also have 8 months after you (or your spouse) stop working to sign up.

  • Your 8-month Special Enrollment Period starts when you stop working, even if you choose COBRA or other coverage that’s not Medicare.
  • Your coverage will start the month after Social Security (or the Railroad Retirement Board) gets your completed forms.

You’ll need to have your employer fill out a Form CMS-L564 (Request for Employment Information). If the employer can’t fill it out, complete Section B of the form as best you can, but don’t sign it. You’ll need to submit proof of job-based health insurance when you sign up. 
What forms of proof can I send?   

The way you sign up depends on if you already have Part A coverage or if you’re signing up for both Part A and Part B. Get forms and ways to sign up.

Avoid the penalty & gap in coverage
If you miss this 8-month Special Enrollment Period, you’ll have to wait to sign up and go months without coverage. You might also pay a monthly penalty for as long as you have Part B. The penalty goes up the longer you wait to sign up. How much is the Part B penalty?   

What do you want to do next?