Individuals 65 years old and over receiving group health plan coverage through an employer are also eligible for Medicare. Depending on your company’s size, you may choose to enroll in Medicare immediately or delay enrollment.

Although the retirement age usually ranges from 66 to 67, Medicare eligibility for most individuals begins at age 65.

Some people who continue to work past age 65 may also have group health plan benefits through their employer. Because of this, it’s possible to have both Medicare and a group health plan after age 65.

Original Medicare consists of Part A and Part B. It offers comprehensive hospital and medical coverage, similar to that of most employer health plans.

Medicare is meant to work with employer benefits to cover your healthcare needs and help pay for most, if not all, of your medical expenses.

If you’re receiving health insurance coverage from your current place of work but also qualify for Medicare, you may find yourself choosing between Medicare and your group health plan.

In most cases, the size of the company where you work determines whether you’ll face penalties for not enrolling in Medicare when you’re eligible.

If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, you must sign up for Medicare when you’re eligible, or you may face a late enrollment penalty for Part B when you sign up later.

If your employer has 20 or more employees, you can delay signing up without any late enrollment penalties in the future.

If you’re under 65 years old and eligible for Medicare because of a disability, you’re not required to sign up until you turn 65 years old. But if you’re still receiving group health insurance coverage at that time, the same rules listed above apply.

Once you retire and give up your employer health benefits, you will have a special enrollment period of eight months to enroll in Part A and B (if you haven’t already).

This special enrollment period begins the month after your employment or group health plan ends. You won’t face a late penalty if you follow the rules above.

Although it isn’t recommended for most individuals, you may decide to decline Medicare entirely.

If you decide to forego Medicare altogether, you must withdraw completely from any Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits you receive.

You will also be required to repay any benefits you received until your withdrawal.

When you receive medical services, your primary insurance pays out first. This insurance is known as the primary payer.

If there’s something that your primary insurance didn’t cover, your secondary insurance pays out next. This insurance is known as the secondary payer. The secondary payer generally covers some, if not all, of the remaining costs.

Here’s how to know who the primary and secondary payers are in your situation:

Medicare is the primary payer if your company has fewer than 20 employees. But Medicare becomes the secondary payer if your employer is part of a group health plan with other employers who have more than 20 employees.

If your company has 20 or more employees, Medicare is the secondary payer. In this case, your group health plan is the primary payer, and Medicare pays out only after your employer’s plan has paid its portion.

The rules above are for general circumstances and may change depending on your situation. If you’re unsure whether Medicare will be the primary or secondary payer in your situation, you can call 855-798-2627 to speak to someone at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service’s Benefits Coordination & Recovery Center.

You can’t contribute to a HSA while on Medicare.

If you are 65 years old or over, your Part A coverage will start up to six months before the date you sign up. You will face a tax penalty if your Part A coverage overlaps when you put money into your HSA.

To avoid penalties, you and your employer should stop putting money into an HSA six months before you retire or apply for Social Security or RRB benefits.

If you have a high-deductible health plan with an HSA based on your or your spouse’s employment, you may be eligible for a special enrollment period. This will allow you to sign up for Part B without a penalty.

You can still withdraw money from your HSA after your coverage starts. Money from HSA accounts can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses like

  • deductibles
  • premiums
  • coinsurance
  • copayments

No matter what your group health plan offers, it’s important to understand that Medicare benefits aren’t extended to anyone other than the beneficiary.

This means that if the group health plan employee receives Medicare benefits along with their employer benefits, Medicare coverage applies only to the employee.

Medicare does not pay out for services received by dependents or spouses, even if the original group health plan does.

If you already have a group health plan and have become eligible for Medicare, it’s important to know when to enroll. Understanding Medicare’s eligibility can help you avoid unnecessary enrollment fees.

You may want to consider your health needs, medical expenses, and spousal coverage before you decide whether to skip Medicare enrollment.

Whether you enroll in Medicare sooner or later, Medicare can work with your group health plan to cover your medical needs and costs.