TONI SAYS: Confused over Medicare’s turning 65 rule?

By Toni King


My issue regarding how to enroll in Medicare is different from any enrollment problem that I have read in the Toni Says Medicare column. I understand from an email a friend received from last year that there are new “turning 65” enrollment rules in Medicare.

I have rheumatoid arthritis and will turn 65 on February 20. I need my Medicare to begin May 1 because my husband is retiring and losing his company benefits effective May 1.

I am a non-working spouse due to my health issues and do not have enough work quarters to receive Medicare on my own. I do not know how to apply using my husband’s Medicare benefits. What do I do? Heather from Nashville, TN

Hi Heather:

It is important for you to enroll in Medicare correctly since you are short of the 40 quarters of working and paying taxes to qualify under your Social Security number. For your Medicare, you will have to qualify under your husband’s Social Security number (if he has the 40 quarters to qualify).

Call your local Social Security office or Social Security at 1/800-772-1213 to arrange an appointment, either over the phone or at a local Social Security office and ask how to apply under your husband’s work record. You will need an “original” certified marriage license to show Social Security that you are currently married. Prior to talking with a Social Security representative, set up a account. Social Security may want you to enroll in Medicare online by visiting when talking with the representative that is guiding you through this process. Heather, with you being short 40 work quarters, the process is a little bit more complicated than when someone is turning 65 and applying using their own benefits.

The changes that your friend mentioned regarding enrolling in Medicare when turning 65 began January 1, 2023. Medicare’s Initial Enrollment Period is the 7-month period which occurs 3 months before turning 65, the month you turn 65 and 3 months after turning 65. (Chapter 1 of my Medicare Survival Guide Advanced edition explains enrolling in Medicare in detail.)

Below is the Medicare Initial Enrollment Period 7-month timeline works:

  • Enrolling anytime 3 months before turning 65, your Medicare begins the first day of the month you turn 65. Since Heather will turn 65 on February 20, she can enroll in Medicare Parts A and/or B in November, December, or January (3 months prior) for a February 1st effective date.
  • Enroll the month you turn 65, then Medicare will begin the 1st of the next month. Heather enrolls in February; her Medicare will begin March 1.
  • Enroll 1 month after you turn 65, your Medicare will begin 1st of the next month. Heather enrolls in March; her Medicare begins April 1.
  • Enroll 2 months after you turn 65, your Medicare will begin the next month. Heather enrolls in April; her Medicare will begin May1.
  • Enroll 3 months after you turn 65, your Medicare will begin the next month. Heather enrolls in May (3 months after the month she turns 65); her Medicare will begin June 1st.

Heather, you want your Medicare to begin May 1, so the first of April is when you would want to schedule your appointment with your local Social Security office. Explain your enrollment situation of not having enough quarters and enroll in Medicare during that meeting. I would advise you to bring your Social Security card, driver’s license and especially your “original” marriage license. Your husband should attend the meeting since you will be using his Social Security information.

Merry Christmas from Toni Says with a discount to the Toni Says readers on the Medicare Survival Guide bundle package at