Americans are retiring later and later. The percentage of men over the age of 65 still in the labor force is among the highest since the 1970’s, and the percentage of women age 65 and over who are still working is the highest it’s ever been.1
If you are eligible for Medicare and also have health insurance coverage from your employer, you may have some questions. Which coverage pays for what services? Will you have to pay more in premiums?
Here we will answer those questions and more as we examine the relationship between Medicare and employer coverage.
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Yes, you can have both Medicare and employer-provided health insurance.
In most cases, you will become eligible for Medicare coverage when you turn 65, even if you are still working and enrolled in your employer’s health plan. You are welcome to drop the employer coverage and have only Medicare if you so choose, but you are not required to do so.
When enrolled in both Medicare and employer insurance, each type of coverage is called a “payer.” Which type of coverage pays first depends largely on the size of your employer.
The primary payer pays up to the limits of its coverage, and the secondary payer pays any (but not necessarily all) covered costs not paid by the primary payer. Even with two payers, you may still have some out-of-pocket costs for your care.
*An exception to the above scenarios is with HSA-compatible health plans. If the employer coverage you are enrolled in is a high deductible health plan coupled with a health savings account, you or your employer will not be able to make any contributions to the HSA while enrolled in Medicare.
The above scenarios apply to people who are still working when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. But what if you’re already retired and enrolled in Medicare but then return to a job that has employer health coverage?
If you return to work, the same rules apply according to the size of your employer. If you enrolled in Medicare Part B, you may cancel it upon enrolling in the employer coverage under no penalty.
When you retire again, you will be granted a Special Enrollment Period if you wish to re-enroll in Part B.
If you are first enrolled in Medicare and then become eligible for COBRA, you may keep both types of coverage. Medicare will serve as the primary payer, and COBRA will act as the secondary payer.
If you are first enrolled in COBRA coverage and then become eligible for Medicare, your COBRA coverage will end. If any of your family members were also covered under your COBRA coverage, their COBRA benefits will remain in place.
Medicare works with military health insurance in the following ways:
Those who are not covered by another type of health insurance and do not enroll in Medicare when they first become eligible may face late enrollment penalties when they finally do sign up.
If you delay your Medicare enrollment because you are enrolled in employer coverage, you may do so without penalty.
When your employer coverage does finally end, you will be given eight months to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B, and you’ll have 63 days to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan before facing any late enrollment penalties.
You may also be able to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan when your employer coverage ends.
You can compare Part D plans available where you live and enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan online in as little as 10 minutes when you visit MyRxPlans.com.2
If you are eligible for both Medicare and employer coverage, you will generally have three options:
If Medicare can offer you smaller premiums and greater coverage than your employer plan, you might consider dropping your employer coverage. But if you have exceptionally good employer coverage that you wish to keep, you may choose to delay Medicare enrollment or at least enroll only in Part A, since most people do not have to pay a premium for Part A anyway.
The size of your company and whether Medicare will be your primary or secondary payer may also factor into your decision.
If you have further questions about how Medicare works with employer coverage and how your coverage, eligibility or enrollment may be affected, call to speak with a licensed insurance agent to learn more.
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Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for MedicareAdvantage.com. 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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