Friday, March 2, 2012

Warning: Same-Sex Married Couples and Medicare Part B

When you turn 65 you must enroll in Medicare Part B or face a 10% lifetime penalty for every year you fail to enroll. So if you wait until age 70, you will be paying an additional 50% premium in addition to the regular Part B premium for the rest of your life. However, Medicare does allow two exceptions to this rule.

First, if you are still working and are covered by either your employer’s or union’s group health plan, you can opt to enroll in Medicare Part B anytime while you are still working or during the 8 months after either your employer’s insurance or your employment ends WITHOUT incurring any penalty.

There is a second exception that involves being on a spouse’s health plan, but because of the discrimination that same-sex married couples face because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), this benefit will not apply to same-sex married couples until either GLAD wins one of its lawsuits against DOMA (for more information on GLAD’s cases see or Congress repeals DOMA.

On the Legal InfoLine, we have seen several cases where a same-sex spouse is on the other spouse’s employer or union health plan and thinks that he/she can delay enrolling in Medicare Part B without incurring a penalty. We have even seen situations where a Social Security employee tells the person that he/she can remain on the spouse’s health plan without incurring a penalty, showing that even some federal government employees are confused about the implications of DOMA. Later when the person decides to enroll in Medicare Part B, he/she is told that she/he is being assessed a 10% penalty for every year the person delayed enrolling after the age of 65.

So it is important when you turn 65 to enroll in Medicare Part B, unless you are still working and have group health insurance through your employer or union. You can sign up for Medicare Part B up to 3 months before the month you turn 65 and up to three months after the month you turn 65, but the later you sign up the longer you have to wait for Medicare Part B coverage to begin.

If you go to sign up more than 3 months after the month you turn 65, then you will have to wait until the “open enrollment” period, which is from January 1 thru March 31 and you will have an additional 10% penalty for every year you waited. You will also have to wait until July 1 before your Medicare Part B coverage starts.

There is more detailed information about enrolling in Medicare at If you have any questions about this or any other LGBTQ/HIV legal issue, contact GLAD’s Legal InfoLine at 800-455-GLAD (4523) or go to

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