If you’re 65 or older, there’s a good chance that Medicare is your primary source of health coverage.


Important: You should sign up for Medicare during the seven-month initial enrollment period that’s closest to your 65th birthday—whether or not you’re still working. If you don’t enroll at this time, you’ll get other opportunities later on but you may end up paying more for your coverage.


But what if you enter retirement before age 65 and aren’t yet eligible for Medicare?


Healthcare.gov is a great resource with detailed information, but here are some key points:


  • To fill the gap between when you retire and when Medicare coverage kicks in at age 65, you can use the health insurance marketplace (created under the Afffordable Care Act) to buy coverage. The enrollment period for 2014 is over, but enrollment for 2015 coverage starts November 15, 2014. Get information for your area and a quick estimate of costs here.
  • You may qualify for a special enrollment period if you lost your employer-sponsored health insurance when you retired. Find out if you qualify here
  • You may be eligible for lower costs under certain circumstances. Find out here.


Source: healthcare.gov


TIAA-CREF offers further guidance on planning ahead for Medicare.