Medicare for People Who are Divorced or Widowed

Medicare coverage is an individual health care plan, not a family plan. You and your spouse must each have your own plan. Therefore, your ex-spouse’s Medicare eligibility or enrollment does not directly impact your own eligibility or Medicare coverage.

However, you may qualify for Medicare benefits based on your former spouse’s work history. The same is true with Social Security benefits. 

Medicare Eligibility After Divorce

You may qualify for Medicare benefits after divorce if:

  • You were married for ten years or more.

  • You are currently unmarried.

  • You’re at least 65 years of age.

  • To be eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A, as part of your Medicare coverage,  your former spouse must be at least 62 years of age and eligible for Social Security retirement or disability benefits. There is an exception for end-stage renal disease, which results in more lenient eligibility.

What If I Was Married and Divorced Multiple Times?

You may only collect Medicare-based benefits from one divorced spouse or former marriage.

If you remarry, your eligibility for Medicare benefits based on the work record of your ex-spouse will generally end, unless that subsequent marriage also ends.

If you have multiple marriages and divorces, your combined income with each spouse could potentially affect your Medicare premiums.

Medicare Part B and Part D premiums may be subject to income-related adjustments (IRMAA) based on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). If your income exceeds certain thresholds, you may have to pay higher premiums, and vice versa.

If you remarry and your ex-spouse passes away, you may still qualify for free Part A because of them, but only if you remarried after you turned 60.

Situations involving multiple marriages and divorces may be complicated, so you might want to contact the Social Security Administration.

Who Qualifies for a Premium-Free Part A?

Original Medicare Part A provides hospital coverage. I like to refer to Part A as inpatient coverage.

Most people are eligible for Medicare Part A premium free because it was paid for through payroll taxes, the Medicare tax deduction from your paycheck. If you or your spouse has paid those taxes for at least 10-years, Medicare Part A is fully paid for. There is no monthly premium.

However, if you divorced, you must have been married for at least 10 years and be currently unmarried to qualify for this benefit. If your former spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10-years and they are age 62 or older you will be eligible for premium free Part A as part of spousal benefits.

If your spouse paid Medicare taxes for fewer than 40 quarters, you may still be eligible for Part A, but with a monthly premium requirement.

What If I Don’t Qualify for Premium-Free Part A?

If you don’t qualify for premium free Part A coverage, you may be able to get Part A by paying a monthly premium. For 2023 you will pay either $278 or $506 monthly, depending on how long Medicare taxes were paid through your own work history or your spouses work history.

You must also sign up for Part B coverage to receive Part A at a premium.

Can Divorce Impact My Part B Premium?

Divorce can potentially impact your Medicare Part B premium if you have or recently had a high income. Part B premiums are subject to income-related adjustments, also known as IRMAA (Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts). These adjustments are based on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) from 2 years prior.

If you are divorced and your income is now higher, it could result in a higher Part B premium (and vice versa). The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines your IRMAA based on your tax return information from 2 years ago. So if you experienced a significant change in income due to divorce, it might take a couple of years for the SSA to adjust your premium based on the updated income.

Remember, IRMAA thresholds are based on individual tax filing status, so if you are divorced and filing as a single individual, your income will be assessed separately from your former spouse’s income.

IRMAA levels for single taxpayers and those filing jointly change each year, as they are adjusted for inflation.

Can You Qualify for Medicare If You Lose Private Healthcare Coverage During a Divorce?

If you’re 65 or older and lose your private healthcare coverage due to a divorce, you qualify for a special enrollment period through Medicare. During this time period, you can choose to sign up for Medicare Parts A, B, and/or D (prescription drug coverage) or a Medicare Advantage plan (aka Medicare Replacement plan or Medicare Part C). For more information on Medicare Advantage plans see our videos and articles.

Medicare Eligibility for a Widowed Spouse

Like any individual, a widowed spouse becomes eligible for Medicare at age 65.

If your deceased spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years (or 40 quarters), you may be eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A based on their work record.

But you must meet specific criteria, such as having been married to your deceased spouse for at least 12 months and not currently remarried.

Additional Benefits for Widowed Spouses

In addition to Medicare, you may be eligible for other benefits as a widowed spouse, such as survivor benefits from Social Security. These benefits are separate from Medicare and have their own eligibility criteria and rules.

How To Report a Death to Medicare

If your spouse has an existing Medicare policy, you can report a death to Medicare by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778) and mentioning your spouse’s social security number.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any more questions about this or another Medicare topic! We always have your best interest at heart, and our award-winning team is here to help you.

Matthew Claassen, CMT and CEO of Medigap Seminars Insurance Agency. Medigap Seminars is an award winning premier national Medicare Insurance Brokerage, ranked among the top in the U.S.A. Matthew is considered a leading national expert on Medicare and Social Security. Mr. Claassen is a distinguished member of the Forbes Business council, an invitation only organization of business leaders and entrepreneurs. He and his team have received awards from many of the countries largest insurance companies including Mutual of Omaha, Aetna, Humana, Cigna, United American, United Healthcare and others. His videos have become the most popular Medicare educational videos on YouTube with millions of views. As a financial analyst Matthew lead a team of researchers to win the 2009 Best Equity Research & Strategy Award from The Technical analysis magazine.


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