My question is about Medicare. I'm 65 and 5 months old. I'm working and plan to keep working for another year. I haven't signed up for Medicare yet. People tell me I need to sign up now or lose benefits. But others say I don't need to sign up for Medicare since I'm working full-time and enrolled in my company's medical plan. I’m confused. What’s the right procedure?

Most people qualify for Medicare coverage when they turn 65. But if you’re still working at 65, you may not have to sign up for Medicare until you stop working, depending on the size of your workplace health plan.

Here are the rules:

If you're covered through a workplace plan that insures 20 or more employees, you don’t need to enroll in Medicare until eight months after your job ends or your workplace coverage ends, whichever comes first.

But if your workplace plan covers fewer than 20 workers, Medicare becomes your primary coverage when you turn 65 — and you must proactively sign up for it. Your Medicare enrollment deadline is three months after your 65th birthday. If you miss it, your next opportunity to sign up isn't until Medicare's next annual general enrollment. In the meantime, you have no primary health insurance. Your workplace plan is now secondary, meaning it won't pay for any expenses that would be covered by Medicare.

If that's your situation, you're in luck: Medicare's annual general enrollment runs from Jan. 1 through March 31, so you can sign up immediately. If you found yourself in this bind in April, you'd be without primary health insurance for nine months.

The bottom line

As you near age 65, it's extremely important to learn your Medicare enrollment deadline and sign up in time to avoid temporarily losing primary health insurance.

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