Case of the Week: Qualifying for Medicare on Spouse’s Record

The ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings plans.

A recent call with a financial advisor from Minnesota is representative of a common inquiry related to Medicare. The advisor asked:

“I have a 68-year-old client whose spouse will be 65 this year. My client signed up for Medicare at age 65. His spouse will not have 40 quarters of covered employment when she attains age 65. Is there any way she can qualify for Medicare on her spouse’s record when she turns 65?”

Highlights of Discussion

Good news: She will likely be eligible for premium-free Part A Medicare coverage at 65 based on her spouse’s record. Let’s review how the Medicare eligibility rules work.

Medicare consists of four basic parts: Parts A (hospital insurance), B (medical insurance), C (Advantage Plans) and D (drug coverage). While Parts B, C and D have a premium amount attached to them, Part A may not. Medicare Part A coverage is premium-free if the individual has 40 quarters of covered employment for Social Security retirement benefits at age 65. That means the individual paid Medicare taxes while working for roughly 10 years.

If, at age 65, the individual does not have 40 quarters of coverage, he or she may be able to buy Part A coverage. The premium for Part A coverage in this case is up to $422 a month. However, if the individual’s spouse had 40 quarters of coverage and is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits (and the couple has been married at least a year), then the spouse without the 40 quarters is considered eligible at 65 and would not be subject to a Part A premium.1 The result in the prior example would be the same if the married couple was now divorced, provided they had been married for at least 10 years.

The Medicare Website has an online eligibility and premium calculator for consumers, which may be of help in making a determination based on their individual circumstances.


Medicare Part A coverage is premium-free for individuals who have 40 quarters of covered employment for Social Security retirement benefits at age 65. If they don’t personally have the covered employment and are married, they may be able to qualify on their spouses’ records.

Any information provided is for informational purposes only. It cannot be used for the purposes of avoiding penalties and taxes. Consumers should consult with their tax advisor or attorney regarding their specific situation.

©2018, Retirement Learning Center, LLC. Used with permission.


  1. Note: If the older spouse has less than 40 quarters, they are eligible for Medicare at age 65 if the younger spouse is at least 62 and has 40 quarters of coverage.

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