Most people in their sixties know that when they turn 65, they become eligible for Medicare and should enroll. But because some are still working upon reaching this milestone, you might wonder whether you still need to enroll in Medicare if you’re already covered by an employer’s healthcare plan.

The answer: What you do next will depend upon the size of your employer.

If your company employs 20 or more workers…

You can delay your Medicare enrollment, without penalty, if you are covered by an employer-provided healthcare plan. When this coverage ends someday, you will be eligible for an eight-month window during which you can enroll in Medicare for the first time.

This employer-provided coverage must be derived from active employment, either by yourself or your spouse. COBRA coverage, due to employment ending, or coverage that comes from retiree benefits do not count. You would be required to enroll in Medicare under those circumstances.

If you or your spouse are still working, the employer is required by law to offer you the same healthcare coverage as all other employees. Then you can decide between three options:

  • Accept your employer’s plan and delay Medicare enrollment
  • Decline your employer’s plan and enroll in Medicare instead
  • Enroll in both your employer’s plan and Medicare (but the employer plan will be primary, with Medicare serving as supplemental coverage)

If your company employs fewer than 20 workers…

The decision generally rests with your employer. If they require you to enroll in Medicare, then your Medicare plan serves as your primary coverage and your group healthcare plan will be supplementary. If you don’t sign up for Medicare at this point, you could essentially be left without coverage.

Failing to enroll in Medicare when you are required to do so can result in higher premiums for the rest of your life. So take the time to understand these rules, and consult with an experienced Medicare insurance broker if you need clarification regarding your options.