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I'm a doozy of an edge case. I'm above 65 and will become eligible for Medicare mid-year 2024, which is when I'll have earned my fortieth Social Security credit on Form 1040 Schedule C. (I won't have qualified before then because I won't yet have resided in the USA for five consecutive years.)

Is my seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period determined by the date in 2024 by which I've earned enough to get my fortieth Social Security credit? Or is it determined by when I file my Form 1040 Schedule C in April 2025? Or something else?

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OK, I researched this on my own. There are zero online resources for this. It was just me vs. the regulations.

tl;dr You can choose whichever calendar quarters to credit in your favour.


Eligibility for Medicare Part B requires eligibility for Medicare Part A (or aged 65+ and continuous residence for five years). 42 U.S. Code § 1395o (a). Eligibility for Medicare Part A (due to age not disability) requires entitlement to Social Security 42 U.S. Code § 426 (a) (or aged 65+ and continuous residence for five years 42 CFR § 406.20).

The Initial Enrolment Period for Medicare Part B is the first day of the third month before the month in which you become eligible for it. 42 U.S. Code § 1395p (d). Therefore, the date in 2024 on which you become entitled to Social Security determines which calendar month is the fourth month of your Medicare Part B Initial Enrolment Period.

The date on which you become entitled to Social Security is the date on which you (62+) become fully insured. 42 U.S. Code § 402 (a)(1). And as we all know, becoming fully insured needs forty credits ("quarters of coverage"). 42 U.S. Code § 414 (a)(2).

For the purpose of determining fully insured status, any quantity of your annual wages worth one credit earns the credit for any calendar quarter that has already started, 42 U.S. Code § 413 (a)(2)(B)(v), and that is most advantageous to you, SSA POMS RS 00301.230 B.

Example 1: if you earn $1510 in December 2022, worth one credit, and didn't earn any other wages for the rest of 2022, you earn one credit for 2022, and SSA permits you to earn any of the Q1, Q2, Q3, or Q4 2022 credits, as you desire. Which of the four credits you choose to earn has nothing to do with the time of year when you earned the wages. In particular, this means that if at the end of 2021 you have 39 credits, you can file for Social Security benefits and Medicare in Jan 2022, get denied (because you only have 39 credits), then reapply in Dec 2022 after having earned $1510 for one credit, earn the Q1 2022 credit, and be approved for retroactive benefits from Q1 2022. The fact that you had no wages until Dec 2022 is completely immaterial; all that counts is that you earned one credit during the year.

When you earn a credit for a calendar quarter, that credit is earned beginning on the first day of that calendar quarter (again, this is irrespective of the time of year you earned the wages corresponding to the credit). SSR 65-44, citing 20 CFR § 404.145.

Example 2: if you earn $6040 in Jan 2022, worth four credits, and don't earn any more wages for the rest of 2022, you earn only the one credit for Q1 2022 on 1 Jan 2022 (the other three calendar quarters have not started, so you haven't yet earned the next three credits). On 1 April 2022, you earn only the Q2 2022 credit (you already earned the Q1 2022 credit and can't earn it again); on 1 July 2022, you earn only the Q3 2022 credit; on 1 Oct 2022, you earn only the Q4 2022 credit.

Therefore, the first day of entitlement to Social Security is the first day of the calendar quarter that the 40th credit you earn belongs to. Hence, the fourth month of the Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is the first day of the calendar quarter that the 40th credit you earn belongs to.

Nothing to do with when during the year you earned the income, and nothing to do with when you file your taxes the next year.


In one chart:

  • if you have 39 credits on 31 Dec 2021, and at any time in 2022 you earn wages enough for at least one credit, you can choose to earn the 40th credit in:
    • Q1, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 Jan 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 Oct 2021 - 31 April 2022
    • Q2, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 April 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 Jan - 31 July 2022
    • Q3, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 July 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 April - 31 Oct 2022
    • Q4, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 Oct 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 July - 31 Jan 2023
  • if you have 38 credits on 31 Dec 2021, and at any time in 2022 you earn wages enough for at least two credits, you can't choose to earn the 40th credit in Q1 (you need to first earn your 39th credit in Q1), so you can choose to earn it in:
    • Q2, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 April 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 Jan - 31 July 2022
    • Q3, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 July 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 April - 31 Oct 2022
    • Q4, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 Oct 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 July - 31 Jan 2023
  • if you have 37 credits on 31 Dec 2021, and at any time in 2022 you earn wages enough for at least three credits, you can't choose to earn your 40th credit in Q1 or Q2 (you need to first earn your 38th credit in Q1 and your 39th credit in Q2), so you can choose to earn it in:
    • Q3, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 July 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 April - 31 Oct 2022
    • Q4, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 Oct 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 July - 31 Jan 2023
  • if you have 36 credits on 31 Dec 2021, and at any time in 2022 you earn wages enough for four credits, you can't choose to earn your 40th credit in Q1, Q2, or Q3 (you need to first earn your 37th, 38th, and 39th credits in Q1, Q2, and Q3), so you can only choose to earn it in:
    • Q4, in which case you become entitled to Social Security on 1 Oct 2021, and your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrolment Period is 1 July - 31 Jan 2023

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