Many spouses share health insurance through their employer, but what if the policyholder retires and switches to Medicare? Can Medicare cover a spouse? Would it cover adult dependents, like a student who isn’t in the workforce yet, an adult child with special needs, or a grandchild who you’re the primary caregiver for?

We answer these questions and more to help you and your family better understand your Medicare coverage options.

Does Medicare Cover Spouses?

We’ll start with the good news. If your spouse is eligible for Medicare, they’ll be able to enroll. This includes premium-free Medicare Part A, since the required credits for this coverage can come from your or your spouse (in order to allow stay-at-home partners to qualify). Unfortunately, if your spouse isn’t eligible for Medicare on their own, they won’t be able to receive Medicare coverage.

What Other Health Insurance Options Might Your Spouse Have?

If you enroll in Medicare and your spouse isn’t eligible for coverage, you both have some options. One option would be for your spouse to receive health insurance through their employer. If this isn’t an option, you could continue working until your spouse is eligible for Medicare, since you can work and have Medicare at the same time. If you work for a company with 20 or more employees, you’d keep your company’s insurance as the primary plan that covers both you and your spouse. If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will become your primary coverage, but your spouse should still be covered by your employee coverage.

Not only can you often find discounts through the marketplace, you can also learn if you qualify for financial aid through programs like Medicaid.

If those solutions won’t work, you potentially have three more options. First, you can try turning to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This federal program allows former employees and their families to continue employer-offered health insurance coverage at full price, meaning without the employer contribution, in certain situations. If the covered employee becomes entitled to Medicare, COBRA coverage would last for three years (or 36 months) for their spouse and dependents. Similarly, your spouse can shop for an individual health insurance plan through a private company. The costs associated with this type of plan, as well as the coverage, will vary, so it’s worth shopping around if you want to go this route. Finally, your spouse can try finding a plan through the marketplace or a state health exchange. Not only can you often find discounts through the marketplace, you can also learn if you qualify for financial aid through programs like Medicaid.

Medicare and Adult Dependents

Simply put, if you enroll in Medicare, your plan will not cover any adult dependents. Your family will have to help them secure coverage another way.

What Other Health Insurance Options Might Your Adult Dependents Have?

Similarly to if your spouse doesn’t qualify for Medicare yet, you could keep working to provide health coverage until your adult dependents are able to find coverage, if they’re a student or currently unemployed for example. They may be able to receive coverage through the COBRA program, private health insurance plans,, or a state health insurance exchange.

We suggest talking to a licensed insurance agent or individuals from the SSA, CMS,, or your SHIP for more personalized guidance.

If your adult child is considered a dependent and reliant on you for health insurance because they’re disabled and cannot work, your family may have additional options. If they worked before becoming disabled, they may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Even if they didn’t work, they may qualify for SSDI if the disability occurred before they turned 22 and they meet other requirements. Depending on their financial circumstances, your adult dependents may also qualify for Medicaid coverage. We suggest talking to a licensed insurance agent or individuals from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS),, or your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for more personalized guidance.

Is There Medicare Coverage for Children?

If you’re Medicare-aged and have children who are under 18 years old as dependents, health insurance will be a major consideration. However, Medicare will not cover those dependents.

What Other Health Insurance Options Might Your Children Have?

To ensure they have coverage, you can try going with COBRA, private health insurance,, or state exchanges for coverage (though this coverage may come in the form of a family plan).

Your child could also qualify for coverage under Medicaid or CHIP.

If the child is disabled, you may receive assistance from Social Security through SSDI and Social Security Income (SSI) payments, which can assist in payments for health care. The child could also qualify for coverage under Medicaid. If your family earns too much to qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a state program that could help your children get coverage. Each state CHIP program is a little different, so it’s important to connect with your local CHIP program to learn the specifics. You can apply for CHIP by calling 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) or by filling out an application on the marketplace.

How Can You Ensure Your Family Is Covered?

One way you can ensure that everyone in your family is covered when you switch over to Medicare is to work with an insurance agent. If you’re working with an agent you trust, they can help you find a Medicare plan that fits your needs and other health insurance coverage that works for your spouse or dependents.

You can get in touch with an insurance agent who can help you find a Medicare plan, and possibly other plans for your loved ones, through the Medicareful Plan Finder. Just enter your zip code and it will show you Medicare plans in your area and help you connect with a licensed insurance agent today!

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While Medicare covers a wide range of health care services, it only covers individuals eligible for it. There are no Medicare family plans. Fortunately, your loved ones usually have other health insurance options available to them.