More than half of all Americans aged 65 or over are married, according to data from the U.S. census. In some states, such as Wyoming, Idaho and Utah, more than three in five seniors age 65 and above have tied the knot.
If you’re considering getting married or are already living in wedded bliss, you may wonder how much Medicare plans will cost you. You may also like to know how much you’ll pay if your circumstances change and you become widowed or divorced.
Understanding Medicare costs for couples can help you budget for your relationship status now and in the future.
Join our email series to receive your free Medicare guide and the latest information about Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
By clicking "Sign me up!” you are agreeing to receive emails from MedicareAdvantage.com.
Speak with a licensed insurance agent
Medicare has no family plans, meaning that you and your spouse must enroll for Medicare benefits separately. This also means husbands, wives, spouses and partners pay separate Medicare premiums.
You may need to enroll at different times, depending on your age and health. While Medicare considers you individually as beneficiaries, your marital status can influence some of your Medicare costs.
Most married Medicare beneficiaries don’t pay monthly premiums for Medicare Part A. You’ll qualify for premium-free Part A at 65 if any one of the following applies to you:
You may also qualify for premium-free Part A at an earlier age if:
If your spouse is at least 62 and satisfies the above work requirements, their work history can help you get Medicare, even if they haven’t qualified for their own Medicare coverage yet. If you’re married for less than a year to a qualifying person when you turn 65, you'll get premium-free Part A after celebrating your first anniversary.
If you or your spouse don’t qualify for premium-free Part A, you can pay for your Part A benefits instead. In 2021, Part A premiums cost $259 or $471 each month. Prices vary depending on how long you or your spouse worked and paid taxes.
For hospital or other qualifying inpatient stays, you’ll pay a deductible ($1,484 per benefit period in 2021) before your Part A benefits kick in.
Medicare considers you and your spouse’s combined income (if you’re married and file your income taxes jointly) when calculating Part B premiums. In most cases, you’ll each pay the standard monthly Part B premium, which is $148.50 per month in 2021.
However, if your combined gross income reported on your tax return two years ago (2019) was more than $176,000, you’ll pay more for your monthly premiums. This higher Part B premium amount is called the Medicare income-related monthly adjustment amount, or IRMAA. The higher your combined annual income, the more your Medicare Part B premiums will cost, up to $750,000 in 2021.
In 2021, you’ll also pay $203 for your Part B deductible before your some of your Part B benefits kick in. After paying this amount, you’ll typically pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for medical expenses covered by Part B, including:
Even if you share a Medicare health plan with your spouse, you’ll still pay your own premiums, deductibles and copays. As Medicare Advantage plans (also known as Medicare Part C) provide a combination of Original Medicare Part A and B services, the advice above can help you determine the costs you may pay.
Bear in mind, however, that because private insurance companies provide Medicare Advantage plans, premium costs can differ. Your plan may also have different copays, coinsurance amounts and deductibles.
Even if you and your spouse enroll in the same type of Medicare Part D prescription drug plan from the same insurance company, you’ll each be enrolled in a separate plan. You’ll each separately need to meet your plan’s yearly deductible before your prescription drug coverage starts.
You’ll also pay separate monthly Part D premiums and coinsurance, depending on your prescription drugs. Medicare Part D plans and their premiums vary, so research your options carefully.
You and your spouse could consider enrolling in similar or different prescription drug plans, but just remember that you should enroll in the plan that best suits your individual needs, since you and your spouse won’t share a single plan.
If your marriage status changes, you may question how your new status affects your Medicare coverage. While you always enroll in Medicare as an individual, being divorced or widowed can change the costs you’ll pay for Medicare. The advice below applies while you remain single.
Most divorced and widowed people don’t pay monthly premiums for Medicare Part A. You’ll qualify for premium-free Part A at 65 if:
You may also qualify for premium-free Part A at an earlier age if:
You will continue to receive premium-free Part A if you qualify and then divorce your spouse or your partner passes away after you enroll. If you had a shorter marriage and didn’t qualify for premium-free Part A through your own work history, you’ll pay either $259 or $471 for your monthly premiums in 2021, depending on how long you or your former spouse worked.
As you are no longer part of a married couple, only your income from two years prior determines your monthly Part B premiums. In most cases, you’ll pay the standard monthly premium. However, if you filed your income taxes individually two years ago (2019) and your gross annual income was more than $88,000, you’ll pay more for your Part B premiums in 2021.
This premium adjustment only applies to your income tax filing status from two years prior, which means that your divorce this year won’t affect your Medicare Part B premiums in this way until (potentially, depending on your income) two years from this year.
If you’re divorced or recently widowed, you’ll need to budget for your Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D plan premiums, deductibles and copays. Shop around for the best plan for your needs and budget, as coverage and premium prices vary between providers.
Plan costs and coverage can also change from one year to the next, so it’s always good to review your coverage each year. A licensed insurance agent can help you determine your plan options and compare the plans that are available where you live.
Compare Medicare plans in your areaCompare Plans
Or call TTY Users: 711 to speak with a licensed insurance agent. We accept calls 24/7!
Zia Sherrell is a digital health journalist with over a decade of healthcare experience, a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Leeds and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Manchester. Her work has appeared in Netdoctor, Medical News Today, Healthline, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan, Yahoo, Harper's Bazaar, Men's Health and more.
When she’s not typing madly, Zia enjoys traveling and chasing after her dogs.