Social Security and Medicare – Keep It Simple

By: Maureen Wilkin, Federal Benefits Specialist, NITP

Published: November 2019

Medicare and Social Security become topics of conversation for most people as they begin to plan for retirement. That conversation often reveals how overwhelmed people are by the amount of program information available. The good news is that it’s really not that complicated. Each program has some key points to know and follow. Let’s go through each program to help you gain a basic understanding.



Your own earned benefit:

Spousal benefit:

Former Spouse Benefit:

Survivor Spouse Benefits:

Widow/Widower Benefit

Surviving Divorced Spouse:

When to Claim:

  • It’s very personal! There is no “best-time”
  • Things to consider:
  • Do you need income?
  • Are you still working?
  • Family situation
  • Life expectancy?

Other Important Facts:



  • At age 65

Three opportunities to enroll:

  1. Initial opportunity: 7-month window
  2. Special opportunity: 8 month period starting when INSURANCE becomes retirement based AND you are 65
  3. General enrollment:


Part A

  • Covers hospital expenses

Part B

Part C

  • Medicare Advantage Plans
  • Private plans that operate like A + B
  • Not available everywhere

Part D


Part A

  • Free – if you have sufficient years paying Medicare taxes while employed
  • Truly free when you are no longer working and paying Medicare taxes

Part B

  • Premium based on previous year’s tax return adjusted gross income – see link
  • Premium determined EVERY year
  • If married and filing jointly, TOTAL income is used for EACH enrollee

Part C

  • Premium is Part B + possibly more if the plan offers additional coverage

Part D

The decision to Enroll:

Part A

  • It’s a “no-brainer”
  • Covers hospital expenses and when coordinated with other insurance can save enrollee $$$$

Part B

  • Cost vs benefit decision
  • Do you need the coverage?
  • What is your health status now @ 65? What will it be @ 85?

Part C

  • Medicare Advantage Plans
  • Available in your location?
  • Doctors & facilities you use/like?

Part D

Those are the basics. You should learn more before you start down the path to enrollment in either program. There are extensive resources available at and at for you to review. There is definitely a great deal to consider, but always remember to keep it simple.

Ms. Wilkin is a retired Federal employee who was a Benefits Specialist for 38 years and was involved with Federal employee training for over 20 years.  Since then, she has been a seminar presenter for NITP.