Your Medicare coverage will not extend to your spouse, or any other family member, though there is a couple of wrinkles we explain below. Whether you opt for Original Medicare (Parts A and B) or Medicare Advantage (private insurer Part C coverage), your coverage will not apply to anyone but you.
Why Does Medicare Only Cover Individuals?
Medicare isn’t just an insurance program – it’s a set of health benefits that you earned by contributing income taxes over the years. Medicare only serves individuals who qualify. Subsequently, it’s not lawful to extend your coverage to other people.
Your spouse should apply for Medicare if he or she is eligible to do so. If your spouse is not eligible, he or she will need to seek his or her own health insurance. Beware of trying to get around a spouse’s ineligibility by staying on your private or employer-based insurance plan until he or she qualifies for Medicare. The rules are complicated, and failure to enroll in Medicare on time results in a large penalty.
How Can Your Spouse Qualify for Medicare?
Here’s the wrinkle, but it’s only for people who are not eligible because you’ve lived in the U.S. for only a few years, or have worked for less than 10 years. In some cases, you can gain Medicare eligibility, including for premium-free Medicare Part A, based on your spouse’s work history – even if you wouldn’t have otherwise qualified for Medicare.
And here’s another wrinkle: If you’re married to — or divorced or widowed from — someone who did work for over 10 years, and therefore qualifies for Medicare, then you’ll probably be eligible to enroll in Medicare for yourself using your partner’s work history. Given the complications, however, it’s best to apply in person at your local Social Security office to sort out the details.