Can I Get Medicare in the Gig Economy?

Victoria Burke by Victoria Burke | Licensed since 2011
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This article was updated on: 10/06/2018

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Not everyone retires and signs up for Medicare as soon as they turn 65. Some people want or need to stay in the workforce. In the gig economy, you may be able to accept work when you want it, without having to make a full-time commitment. But you might need your Medicare benefits.

What is the gig economy?

In the gig economy, people seek or provide work (or items or services) online, according to The Economist. Rather than working full-time, gig workers take jobs (or offer services) on an as-needed basis, often through online apps.

Workers in the gig economy generally don’t get benefits, such as health insurance, according to Forbes. Of course, you may be able to buy your own health insurance. But what about Medicare?

Medicare and the gig economy when you’re 65 or over

You might qualify for Medicare when you turn 65. If you’re a citizen of the United States, or a legal permanent resident of at least five years in a row, you’re generally eligible for Original Medicare when you turn 65. Original Medicare means Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance).

So, if you’re not covered by other health insurance (such as a union plan, or your spouse’s employment-based plan) you might want to sign up for Medicare. Even if you’re covered by other insurance, it’s generally a good idea to at least sign up for Part A. If you or your spouse worked at least 10 years while paying Medicare taxes, you generally don’t have to pay a monthly premium for Part A. But if you don’t sign up when you’re first eligible, you might face a late enrollment penalty when you enroll later on.

If you’re covered under a health insurance plan, you might consider delaying enrollment in Part B. This medical insurance arm of Original Medicare typically comes with a monthly premium. However, you can also face a late enrollment penalty if you delay enrollment. You might avoid a late enrollment penalty if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. That’s something to remember if you’re part of the gig economy.

Medicare and the gig economy when you’re younger than 65

In most cases, you can’t qualify for Medicare if you’re under 65 years old. If any of the following matches your situation, you might be eligible for Medicare.

  • You have end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which permanent kidney failure requiring regular dialysis or a kidney transplant. Usually you’ll have to contact Social Security to enroll (contact information below).
  • You’ve been receiving disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) for at least 24 months in a row. You’re typically enrolled automatically the 25th month of receiving disability benefits.
  • Have ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease). You’re usually enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B automatically the same month that your Social Security or RRB benefits start.

You can reach Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users, call 1-800-325-0778). Representatives are available Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM, all U.S. time zones.

I don’t qualify for Medicare yet. What can I do if I’m a gig worker?

Suppose you’re not eligible for Medicare, and you don’t have access to other coverage (for example, through a spouse). In the gig economy, you might find yourself without health insurance. You might want to explore the possible coverage options available in your area. In some cases, you might qualify for a government subsidy to help with medical insurance costs. Learn more about individual health insurance.

Do you want to know more about Medicare eligibility? I can explain that to you, and point out the various Medicare coverage options available in your area. To set up a phone call with me or have me send you customized information by email, follow the links below. Click the Find Plans or Compare Plans buttons on this page and enter your zip code to see a list of plans in your area.

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