Medicare Planning

Happy 64 1/2 birthday!
64 1/2 is a critical age for Medicare planning. It gives you six months to explore your options. We're here to help.

Prepare for Medicare

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Most people don’t become Medicare-eligible until they turn 65 (there are exceptions, of course), but you don’t want to wait until the last minute—or later—to plan and apply. This is why Mountain America Credit Union recommends setting up a Medicare planning meeting with your financial advisor six months in advance. You’ll get help sorting through the details and options of Medicare, including which plans you’ll qualify for and any premiums you may need to pay. You’ll also get advice on the enrollment process.

How Medicare eligibility is determined

Not sure when you’ll start receiving Medicare? Here are some of the ways the government decides:

  1. Age. While 65 is usually the magic age for Medicare, there are some exceptions. If you have certain medical conditions or disabilities, you may qualify for Medicare earlier, but only if you also qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Most people must collect Social Security disability for a two-year period before they qualify for early Medicare. Without a disability, you’ll qualify on your 65th birthday.
  2. Citizenship. Since Medicare is a United States Government program, you must be a U.S. citizen to qualify. Permanent legal residents, who have lived in the United States for at least five years also qualify, as long as the other criteria are met.
  3. Employment history. If you or your spouse have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits (or railroad retirement benefits), you should also qualify for Medicare, even if you’re not yet receiving Social Security benefits. If you or your spouse are a government employee or retiree who hasn’t paid into Social Security but has paid Medicare payroll taxes while working, you’ll also likely qualify. Or if your spouse is at least age 62 and you’re at least age 65, you can qualify for certain premium-free benefits. You can also qualify through the work record of a divorced or deceased spouse.

Give yourself plenty of time

We’ll be the first to admit that Medicare can be confusing. Not only are there different eligibility requirements to consider, but there are also differing payment scales, work credits and so much more. Even the plan itself is confusing. It’s split into four parts—A, B, C and D—and each part has its own set of rules and eligibility requirements.

Plus, Medicare isn’t a drop-in program. Just like your current health insurance plan, there are specified enrollment periods. If you miss yours, you’ll have to wait until the next open enrollment period rolls around. Your first enrollment period starts three months prior to your 65th birthday, which is why we recommend that you set up a planning session right when you turn age 64.5 (happy extra-important half birthday)!

Medicare consultations

What to expect in your consultation

What will happen during your Medicare planning meeting?

As a Mountain America member, your Medicare planning meeting is free. We provide this service because making smart financial decisions about your healthcare is an important part of financial wellness.

During a Medicare planning meeting, you and your advisor will discuss eligibility criteria, specific dates and what different plans and options will mean for your finances. Your advisor will look at your big-picture financial situation and work within your budget and Medicare’s criteria to help you determine the right coverage for you.

“The important thing to know about Medicare is that it’s unique for everyone. If you’ve changed careers, were divorced and remarried, had a spouse die or have a disability, there are further details to consider,” says Chad Waddoups, vice president of investment and insurance services at Mountain America. “It can help to have someone who is well versed in the program point you in the right direction so you’re set up for the best possible care long term.”


The greatest benefit of a planning meeting before age 65 may be this: you’ll know exactly how your Medicare plan should look before you register. This makes registering (almost) stress free. That’s a very good feeling.

Perhaps you are thinking, why wait until 64.5 for such an important meeting? That’s a great question—we agree that something like this should be done earlier rather than later. But because rules, laws and your own personal financial situation can change quickly, we recommend waiting until just a few months before your initial enrollment to start planning. That way, the most current information can be used to determine your best options.

By the way, we also recommend you enroll in Medicare during the first days you’re eligible. Why? Because Medicare benefits kick in four months after you enroll—and you don’t want to miss a day of this awesome perk you’ve earned. For more information on setting up a Medicare planning meeting or for other retirement planning and investment questions, please contact the financial advisors at Mountain America. You can make an appointment online, stop by a branch or give us a call at 877-428-0444.