Common Questions

How Much Does Medicare Cost for Married, Widowed and Divorced Couples?

Learn about Medicare costs for married, widowed and divorced couples so you can budget for changes in your circumstances and have peace of mind your healthcare is covered.

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.

How much does Medicare cost for a married couple?

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.

Medicare Part A

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 worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters, or 10 years
  • You had Medicare-covered government employment
  • You have been married to someone with a qualifying work history for at least 12 months

You may also qualify for premium-free Part A at an earlier age if:

  • You have received Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board disability payments for 24 months
  • You have End-Stage Renal Disease

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 Part B

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:

  • Most doctor services
  • Outpatient therapy
  • Durable Medical Equipment

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

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.

Medicare Part D

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.

What does Medicare cost if you’re divorced or widowed?

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.

Medicare Part A

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 worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters, or 10 years
  • You had Medicare-covered government employment
  • You were married to someone with a qualifying work history for at least 10 months before divorcing
  • You were married to someone with a qualifying work history for at least nine months before they passed away

You may also qualify for premium-free Part A at an earlier age if:

  • You have received a Railroad Retirement Board or Social Security benefit for disability for 24 months
  • You have End-Stage Renal Disease

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.

Medicare Part B

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.

Medicare Part C and Part D

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.

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