Common Questions

What Are Medicare Quarters and How Do They Affect My Coverage?

You typically need to have worked and paid Medicare taxes for 40 quarters – equal to 10 years ¬– to qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A (hospital insurance). Learn more about your coverage options.

When learning about your Medicare costs, you may have come across the mention of “quarters.” Medicare quarters refer to the amount of qualified time that you paid Social Security and Medicare taxes.

To qualify for Medicare Part A hospital insurance coverage without having to pay a premium, you typically must have paid Medicare taxes for 40 quarters, equal to 10 years.

But what counts as a qualified Medicare quarter? Do you need 40 quarters to qualify for Medicare? Read this helpful guide to learn more about your Medicare coverage options and how Medicare quarters work.

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What are employment quarters?

One employment quarter is equal to three months. There are four quarters in a year. For example:

  1. January 1 to March 31 = quarter number 1
  2. April 1 to June 30 = quarter number 2
  3. July 1 to September 30 = quarter number 3
  4. October 1 to December 31 = quarter number 4

The Social Security Administration (SSA) also refers to a “quarter of coverage” (QC) as a “Social Security credit.” You cannot earn more than 4 QCs in one year.

In 2020, you must earn at least $1,410 in a quarter for that quarter to count as a qualified quarter credit. You must typically have 40 quarter credits to earn Social Security retirement benefits.

Do you need 40 quarters to qualify for Medicare?

You do not need to have earned 40 quarters to qualify for Medicare coverage. Medicare eligibility is based primarily on your age (and in some cases, qualifying disabilities or medical conditions).

The number of quarters you paid Medicare taxes will affect your Medicare costs, however. Your Medicare Part A premium is partly based on the number of quarters for which you worked and paid Medicare taxes.

As mentioned above, you qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A if you paid Medicare taxes for 40 quarters. If you paid Medicare taxes for less than 40 quarters, you will typically have to pay a premium for your Part A coverage.

The full breakdown for 2020 Medicare Part A premiums is as follows:

If you paid Medicare taxes for...

...your 2020 Medicare Part A premium will be:

At least 40 quarters


Between 30 and 39 quarters

$252 per month

Fewer than 30 quarters

$458 per month

Most Medicare beneficiaries do not pay a premium for their Part A benefits.

You would need to pay Medicare taxes for at least 7.5 years to qualify for the $252 premium in 2020. Anything less than 7.5 years would require you to pay a $458-per-month premium in 2020.

The number of quarters counted do not have to be consecutive in order to count towards your qualified total.

Can I get premium-free Part A if my spouse worked for 40 quarters?

If you are age 65 or older and pay a premium for your Medicare Part A coverage, you could potentially qualify for premium-free Part A benefits once your spouse turns 62 years old, as long as they paid Medicare taxes for 40 quarters.

For example, Gerald is 65 years old and has to pay a premium for Medicare Part A because he did not work the minimum number of years required for premium-free Part A eligibility.

Gerald’s wife, Jessica, reaches age 62 and has worked and paid Medicare taxes for 40 quarters. Because Jessica is now 62 years old and has met the working requirement, Gerald may now receive premium-free Part A, even if Jessica is not currently enrolled in Medicare.

If Jessica reached 65 before Gerald, Gerald would receive premium-free Part A due to her work history once he aged into Medicare.

Explore your Medicare coverage options

Did you know that Medicare Advantage plans offer the same benefits that are covered by Medicare Part A and Part B (Original Medicare)?

And did you know that most Medicare Advantage plans also offer addition benefits not covered by Original Medicare, such as:

  • Dental coverage
  • Vision coverage
  • Prescription drug coverage

Many Medicare Advantage plans are also available with $0 premiums and $0 deductibles, though these plans may not be available in all locations.

To learn more about how you may be able to save on some of your out-of-pocket health care costs, compare Medicare Advantage plans available in your area with the help of a licensed insurance agent.

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About the author

Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.

His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.

Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.

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