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Janie Slaven: TONI SAYS: Isn't Medicare Part A free?

Times-Tribune - 5/3/2024

May 3—Toni,

I need your help because I have made a mistake enrolling in Medicare. This February, my husband Sonny was laid off and lost his employer health insurance, which I was on. He is a veteran and is receiving his health care from the VA, so he did not have to enroll in Medicare.

I have enrolled in Medicare since I am turning 65 in April. But am not sure if I enrolled properly, because my Medicare is costing me an extra $505 for Medicare Part A and $174.70 for Medicare Part B. Isn't Medicare Part A free?

I have not worked very much since Sonny and I married 40 years ago, and Social Security said that is my issue. Please explain what I should do to correct my Medicare mistake. Thank you, Toni.

Terry from Laredo, Texas

Hi Terry:

No, Medicare Part A is not free! Many Americans are not aware that they must work a certain amount of time and pay employment taxes to receive premium-free Medicare Part A. This is most likely the cause of your problem, and the Toni Says Medicare team helps resolve this issue quite often.

To qualify for Medicare Part A at no cost, you must have worked and paid Social Security and Medicare taxes from your payroll check for 10 years or 40 quarters. For 2024, if you paid Medicare taxes for 30-39 quarters, then the standard Part A premium is $278 each month. If you paid Medicare taxes for less than 30 quarters, the premium for Medicare Part A is $505 each month (which is $1 less than in 2023).

However, those who do not qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A but who have been married for at least 10 years to an individual who has met the 10 years/40 quarters requirement should apply for Medicare under their spouse's Social Security number. Terry, you should have applied for Medicare under Sonny's account.

My advice to you, Terry, would be to contact your local Social Security office, since that is the government office which enrolls Americans in Medicare. Ask the Social Security representative for help to appeal your Medicare Part A premium of $505, because you have been a stay-at-home spouse but your husband has worked enough quarters to qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A.

Social Security will look over your husband's Social Security accounts and verify with the IRS that he has enough quarters to qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A. Be prepared to provide a certified marriage license showing you are married. You will have to provide the original marriage license (not a copy) to Social Security.

For those who did not work enough quarters to qualify and never married or lived with someone as a domestic partner, they will have to pay for their Medicare Part A premium. And if your spouse/domestic partner did not work enough quarters, you both will have to pay the Medicare Part A premium.

Readers, don't forget how important working and paying taxes for 40 quarters is to enroll in Medicare! What you don't know about enrolling in Medicare WILL hurt you. (Chapter 1 of Toni's Medicare Survival Guide Advanced edition can help you avoid problems like Terry's.)

Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. If you have a Medicare question, email or call 832-519-8664.


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