If you’re single, Medicare is pretty straightforward. You work for at least 40 quarters (roughly 10 years) and, once you turn 65 and start collecting Social Security, you’re automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B (Original Medicare). However, things can get a little more complicated for couples.

Many couples wonder if their relationship qualifies as a “union” under Medicare. Additionally, couples want to know if Medicare applies to both parties at the same time, or if they deal with their own Medicare plans separately. In this brief guide, we will answer all of your questions regarding couples and Medicare.

What Qualifies as a “Couple” for Medicare?

Generally, you need to be legally married for Medicare to consider you and your partner as a “couple.” However, Medicare also recognizes domestic partnerships, in which both partners are living under one roof. The rules are a little different for domestic partnerships, but they still qualify for many of the same spousal benefits as married couples. You can contact one of Time for 65’s partnered licensed agents to learn more about the rules for domestic partnerships.

What Are Medicare’s Spousal Benefits?

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There are a couple of important rules and benefits that couples need to know about regarding Medicare’s spousal benefits. However, it’s important to remember that all spousal benefits only apply to Medicare Part A. They do not apply to Medicare Part B. In any case, let’s take a look at what Medicare does for couples:

  • Non-Working Spouse: Let’s say that one spouse works for 40 quarters (roughly 10 years) and enrolls in Medicare when they turn 65. Even if their spouse never worked and doesn’t qualify for healthcare, they can enroll in Medicare Part A based on their spouse’s work history. This is one of the primary spousal benefits provided by Medicare.
  • Early Medicare Enrollment: Now let’s say that there’s a small age difference between you and your spouse. You turn 65 and qualify for Medicare Part A. Naturally, you can enroll immediately. However, let’s assume that your spouse is younger than you. Fortunately, if one spouse enrolls in Medicare, their younger spouse can enroll three years early (when they turn 62) as long as they also qualify for Medicare through their work history. The same also applies in reverse. If a spouse turns 65 and doesn’t qualify for Medicare with their work history, they can still enroll if they have a younger spouse who does qualify. Once the younger spouse turns 62, the older spouse can enroll in premium-free Medicare Part A coverage.

Do Spousal Benefits Apply With a Medicare Advantage Plan?

Even though you can qualify for Medicare Part A through your spouse, you and your spouses’ plans are still treated as separate plans. The same is true if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. You cannot enroll in the same plan. Additionally, most Medicare Advantage plans do not offer the same spousal benefits as Original Medicare. That said, you will need to contact one of Time for 65’s partnered licensed agents to see exactly what your plan covers in regards to your spouse.

Bottom Line

Medicare offers a variety of benefits to couples, even those who are not officially married. Most of these benefits involve early qualification or qualification through one spouse’s work history. In any case, you can rest easy knowing that, even if you don’t qualify for Medicare, you do have options to qualify with your spouse.

If you’d like to learn more about Medicare coverage for couples, feel free to fill out this form or give us a call anytime. Our licensed agents are focused on giving you the information you need, with zero pressure to enroll in a plan.