Canadian Snowbirds Hoping to Get Medicare

By Dr. Don Taylor, Ph.D., CFA, CFP,

Dear Retirement Adviser, 

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My wife works in the U.S., as she has for more than 20 years. While we now live in Canada, we would like to buy a property in Florida. As a spouse, would I be entitled to Medicare when she retires? I will be 66 years old when she turns 62. I worked in the U.S. for only about two years, but I have paid into Social Security.


-Don Downsouth

Dear Don, 

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Having lived in Florida for more than a decade myself, I am familiar with the so-called Canadian snowbirds migrating to Florida each winter.

There's not an easy answer to your question other than, yes, when you move to the U.S., you will be eligible to enroll in Medicare based on your wife's Social Security earnings record. When you would be covered and whether you pay a penalty for late enrollment in Medicare must be resolved by the local Social Security office.

You will be able to enroll in Medicare based on your wife's U.S. earnings record because she's worked long enough to be insured. You can enroll for Medicare Part B because you are also eligible for Medicare Part A. You should discuss your ability to participate in Medicare Part D with the local Social Security office as well.

Timing might be an issue. You can't receive Medicare based on her work record until she is 62. But at that time, you'd be 66 and would have missed the window to enroll at age 65 without a penalty. There may be an exception to the penalty if you're both covered under her employer's group health plan. You might qualify for a special enrollment period. If not, then you may have to apply during the general enrollment period, pay the penalty and wait until the following July to be entitled to Medicare Part B.

Because of your short work history in the U.S., you may be able to use the so-called Totalization Agreement between the U.S. and Canada. This allows you to have your Canadian credits counted along with your two years of U.S. earnings to claim Social Security benefits.

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