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Switching Social Security benefit means new Medicare card also

Since age 66, I’ve been collecting half my husband’s Social Security benefit under the old file-and-suspend rule. I’m about to turn 70 and plan to retire and switch to collecting my own bigger benefit. I currently have Medicare Part A under my husband’s name. Should I switch my Medicare to my own name? Will that affect my supplemental health coverage from his union, which we plan to use when he retires?

When you applied at 66 for a spousal Social Security benefit based on your husband’s work record, you were automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. When you switch to your own Social Security benefit, you’ll automatically be issued a new Medicare card that’s based on your own work record.

If you’re covered in your husband’s union health plan after he retires, the new card won’t affect that coverage.

A Medicare card always shows a primary wage earner’s Social Security number, followed by a code identifying the insured person’s relationship to the wage earner. Your current Medicare card has your husband’s Social Security number on it, followed by the letter B, which means “wife drawing on a husband’s record.” Your new card will have your Social Security number, followed by “A,” for “wage earner.”

Presumably, you didn’t opt to enroll in Medicare B and D (respectively covering doctors’ visits and prescription drugs) because you’re still insured through your job or your husband’s job. Your deadline for signing up for parts B and D (or a Medicare Advantage plan providing both) is eight months after you retire (or eight months after your husband retires, if you’re covered through his job), or eight months after your current coverage ends, whichever comes first.

THE BOTTOM LINE Your Medicare card identifies the Social Security wage earner whose work record qualifies you for coverage.


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