Before you qualified for Medicare, you probably had private insurance to help cover your medical expenses. You might even have been able to cover your spouse or dependants’ medical expenses under the same policy. When planning to sign up for Medicare, you might wonder whether your spouse or dependants can also receive Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) benefits.
Since Medicare is a government benefit offered to a specific group of beneficiaries, it is not offered as a family or dependent plan. This means that an individual who does not meet Medicare eligibility—by “aging in” or meeting certain disability requirements—cannot enroll even if their spouse or parent is Medicare eligible.
The insurance options available to your spouse or dependants will vary according to factors like your specific insurance needs and which plans are available in your area. When reviewing your own Medicare options, find out whether you or your spouse’s current health coverage can cover your spouse or dependants after you retire or become Medicare-eligible. It might also be helpful to research alternative coverage for your spouse or dependants, such as COBRA, group health plans or individual insurance policies.
COBRA is a Federal law that may allow your spouse or dependants to temporarily keep health insurance coverage, after your employment ends, if they were covered by your insurance policy. Your spouse or dependents may be eligible for COBRA coverage for up to 36 months. This helps avoid gaps in insurance coverage and the problems they can cause. To find out if COBRA is right for you, visit the COBRA website. When you enter your zip code and answer a few general questions about the coverage needed, you’ll receive examples of COBRA plans and costs that might be right for you.
Group Health Insurance
Group health insurance plans offer benefits to members of specific groups, like a social or professional organization or an alumni association. When thinking about alternative insurance coverage for a non-Medicare-eligible spouse or dependant, consider the groups you belong to. Visit their website or call them to see if they offer insurance to members and their families, either through the association itself or one of their partners.
You may also be able to purchase individual health insurance policies through a private insurance company. A private insurance plan is a policy offered to an individual, rather than through an employer or union. A good place to start might be the insurance company who provided your coverage before you became Medicare-eligible. Call your plan’s Customer Service number or visit their website to find out if they offer private insurance coverage. You can also looking for insurance carriers in your area and contact them online or by phone. Many insurance company websites let you enter a little personal information—like your zip code and reasons for needing coverage—and they’ll provide you with policies and quotes.
Still have questions about Medicare eligibility? Read our blog post on eligibility and enrollment.
For more information contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. You can also contact UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Made Clear at 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.
Getting Ready for Medicare – MMC
Medicare Eligibility and Enrollment – Medicare.gov
Y0066_110914_082849 File & Use 09262011