With health coverage from your employer (or your spouse’s), you can skip signing up for Medicare at age 65. But you need to make sure you do it right to avoid a penalty later.

This week columnist Phil Moeller, the author of Get What’s Yours for Medicare: Maximize Your Coverage, Minimize Your Costs and the co-author of the updated edition of The New York Times bestseller How to Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Securityhelps two readers with questions about delaying.

Got a question of your own about Medicare or Social Security? Send it to  askphil@considerable.com.

How can I make sure I’m not covered by Medicare by mistake?

Question: I plan to continue working past age 65 and continue receiving health care benefits from my employer. I plan to keep making contributions to my health savings account (HSA), and I understand I should not sign up for any Medicare coverage, including Part A.

Do I need to notify Medicare that I plan to delay signing up at age 65? I don’t want to be penalized. 

Phil Moeller: Your understanding of the HSA rules is correct. Having Medicare is a conflict with the tax-deductibility of HSAs.

Having any type of Medicare disallows continued tax-deductible HSA contributions. This includes receiving any type of Social Security benefit, because the law says that people on Social Security must have Part A of Medicare. 

(Keep in mind, however, that if you have an existing HSA, you may still retain the tax benefits for that account—including tax-free withdrawals for eligible medical expenses—even after you enroll in Medicare.) 

You do not need to notify Medicare of your intention not to get Medicare. In fact, Medicare doesn’t even handle Medicare enrollments. Social Security does this work.

I urge people who turn 65 to pay careful attention to their Social Security mail, because the agency occasionally does mistakenly enroll people in Medicare. If that happens, you should quickly contact the agency and reverse such an enrollment.

It also doesn’t hurt to sign up for a personalized online My Medicare account. This account includes your Part A and Part B status, and thus will reflect any improper enrollments.

Will we owe a penalty for skipping Medicare?

Question: My husband and I have only Part A of Medicare because we had insurance through his company, and we kept that coverage after he retired. Our monthly insurance cost is $372 for both of us.

My question is, would we pay a penalty for not having Medicare? If so, how much would it be?

Phil Moeller: From your question, it appears that you have retained life-long health insurance coverage from your employer during your retirements. If so, congratulations!

You are one of a vanishing breed. I am not doubting you here, but I would suggest that you confirm this with your retiree health plan.

If this is the case, and if you are satisfied with the health plan, I see no reason for you to ever get Medicare. There is no penalty for people who do not have Medicare.

There is no penalty for people who do not have Medicare.

There is, however, a late-enrollment penalty if you who do not get Medicare when you are first eligible and then later change your mind and enroll. This penalty will tack on 10% to monthly Part B premiums (now $135.50 for most enrollees) for each full year you are late in enrolling.

There also is a smaller late-enrollment penalty for Medicare Part D drug plans.

Read more Ask Phil questions:

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