If you are within four months of 65 and not ready to start your monthly Social Security cash retirement benefits, you can sign up just for Medicare and apply for your retirement benefits or your spouse’s retirement benefits later.

Before you decide, you need to be sure that you understand how waiting until later will affect the lifetime benefits Social Security can pay on your record and your current health insurance coverage.

If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) and/or health insurance based on employment, you may want to ask your personnel office or insurance company how signing up for Medicare will affect you.

Health Insurance Coverage
Most people age 65 or older are eligible for free Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A) if they have worked and paid Medicare taxes long enough. You should sign up for Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A) within 4 months of your 65th birthday, whether or not you want to begin receiving retirement benefits. When you sign up for Medicare, you will be asked if you want to enroll in Medical Insurance (Part B).

Anyone who is eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) can enroll in Medicare medical insurance (Part B) by paying a monthly premium. Some beneficiaries with higher incomes will pay a higher monthly Part B premium.

Social Security has a booklet which you can request, or read on their website, www.ssa.gov, which will assist you in figuring out the premium amount you will pay should you be considering enrolling for Medicare Part B coverage. This booklet is titled: "Medicare Premiums: Rules For Higher Income Beneficiaries" (Publication No. 05-10536).

If you do not choose to enroll in Medicare Part B and then decide to do so later, your coverage may be delayed and you may have to pay a higher monthly premium unless you qualify for a "Special Enrollment Period (SEP)”.

An SEP will generally apply if you are age 65 or older and your medical insurance coverage is under a group health plan based on your, or your spouse’s, current employment. In this case, you may not need to apply for Medicare Supplementary Medical Insurance (Part B) at age 65. An SEP exception will let you sign up for Part B during any month you remain covered under the group health plan and your, or your spouse’s employment continues; or within the 8-month period that begins with the month after your group health plan coverage or the employment it is based on ends, whichever comes first.

If you are working at age 65 and your business has a personnel or human resources department, you should discuss your health coverage with a representative of that department before you apply for your Medicare Part A benefit.