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Howard Kossover: Medicare provides individual, but not family coverage

Q: My wife is age 60, retired, and has medical insurance through my work policy. My work contract ends this summer and I plan to retire then, being over age 65 with Medicare coverage. Will my Medicare cover my wife also?

A: No, for two reasons.

First, Medicare provides individual coverage only. It does not have family coverage.

Second, age based Medicare cannot begin until age 65.

Depending on her personal work record, your wife should be eligible for Medicare through either her work or yours when she reaches age 65.

Based on disability or certain illnesses, some people younger than age 65 can qualify for Medicare.

Whether Medicare coverage is due to disability or age, family coverage is not included.

If you receive Social Security monthly benefits, a few months before reaching age 65 you are sent Medicare enrollment information by regular mail.

If not receiving benefits, you should contact SSA to enroll in Medicare or complete the online application at

Q: Can a person who owns a house and car receive Supplemental Security Income?

A: Yes, depending on the details.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a very different program from Social Security, although people apply for it at Social Security.

SSI is a low-income program for people at least age 65, and disabled or blind adults or children.

Resource limits exist for SSI, with resources defined as items you own or can convert to cash including bank accounts, property and vehicles.

Not everything you own counts as a SSI resource.

If you live in it, your home including the land it is on, is generally not counted toward resource levels.

If you own the home but do not live in it, both home and land usually do count as resources.

One vehicle usually does not count as a resource either.

Maximum SSI monthly amounts in 2013 are $710 for an eligible individual and $1,066 for a couple, reduced by other income including Social Security benefits.

Resource maximums are $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.

Just as with a home or vehicle, not all income or resources counted.

SSI information is at

To apply, contact Social Security.

Call the national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local SSA office.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at