Other ways to get Medicare coverage
If you do not qualify on your own or through your spouse’s work record but are a U.S. citizen or have been a legal resident for at least five years, you can get full Medicare benefits at age 65 or older. You just have to buy into them by:
- Paying premiums for Part A, the hospital insurance. How much you would have to pay for Part A depends on how long you’ve worked. The longer you work, the more work credits you will earn. Work credits are earned based on your income; the amount of income it takes to earn a credit changes each year. In 2021 you earn one work credit for every $1,470 in earnings, up to a maximum of four credits per year. If you have accrued fewer than 30 work credits, you pay the maximum premium — $471 in 2021. If you have 30 to 39 credits, you pay less — $259 a month in 2021. If you continue working until you gain 40 credits, you will no longer pay these premiums.
- Paying the same monthly premiums for Part B, which covers doctor visits and other outpatient services, as other enrollees pay. In 2021 the amount is $148.50 for individuals with a yearly income of $88,000 or less or those filing a joint tax return with $176,000 in income or less. Rates are higher for people with higher incomes.
- Paying the same monthly premium for Part D prescription drug coverage as others enrolled in the drug plan you choose.
You can enroll in Part B without buying Part A. But if you buy Part A, you also must enroll in Part B.
You can get Part D if you’re enrolled in either A or B.
You cannot enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, which is a private insurance alternative to Original Medicare, or buy a Medigap supplemental insurance policy unless you’re enrolled in both A and B.
Editor’s note: Patricia Barry contributed to this story, which has been updated with 2021 information.