It seems like Social Security has been around forever since this benefit is vital to so many people. It can be hard to believe that Social Security was only enacted in 1935, and Medicare did not exist until 1965. Millions of Medicare recipients have been greatly impacted by these benefits. Baby Boomers, in particular, have played a key role in demonstrating the strong influence Medicare recipients have on the economy and the future of these programs.

Reliance on Benefits

Post-World War II babies, those born between 1946 and 1965, are commonly referred to as Baby Boomers. The spike in births during that time period have had a huge impact. By 2029, it is projected that over 20% of the aggregate population in the United States will be 65-plus years of age. For Medicare recipients 65 years of age or older, the proportion of total income represented by Social Security payouts is about one-third. Breaking this down further for marital status, 21% of those married and 44% of those unmarried depend on these payments for 90% or more of their income, according to the Social Security Fact Sheet. Topics surrounding the magnitude and increasing longevity of the Baby Boomer generation have been woven into public conversations about proposed changes in these programs. Given the reliance on these benefits, it is important to stay current on eligibility, benefits, and cost issues related to Social Security and Medicare.

Eligibility of Benefits

If you are under 65, you may apply for Medicare if you have received payments for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a minimum of 24 months or if you have been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). You may also be eligible for Medicare if you are 65 years of age, assuming you receive or qualify for Social Security retirement benefits and satisfy the residency requirement, i.e., reside in the U.S. and are either a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. resident who has lived in the U.S. continuously for five years prior to applying.

Estimated Benefit Amounts

Qualification for Social Security benefits is translated into credits, which are earned by working and earning a specific level of wages. For example, in 2018, $1,320 yielded one credit. Up to four credits may be earned per year, and the minimum required is 40 credits. To learn what you can expect personally, create an online account. Once registered on the site, you can generate a statement that shows estimated benefits as well as an earnings record. Review the earnings record carefully, and notify the SSA if any discrepancies are identified. Here’s a tip: Never destroy W-2 and 1099 forms as these documents are the only acceptable proof of past earnings. Browse the Medicare FAQs for specific questions such as how and when to sign up, Part A and Part B premiums, and deferment circumstances.

Whether or not you are currently in retirement, it is always best to stay informed of program updates and how revisions may impact your individual situation. Rules tend to change, and awareness is critical to planning.

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