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Back in the olden days, when you had only the choice of age 65 to apply for Social Security retirement benefits, Medicare and Social Security went hand-in-hand. At the same time that you applied for Social Security retirement benefits, you would also apply for Medicare – all at age 65. In the continuous evolution of the Social Security system, as we all know, the age for full retirement benefits has increased – up to age 67 for some folks now. Plus you have the option of applying early for your retirement benefit, as early as age 62. While all this was going on, Medicare… didn’t change. For most folks, access to Medicare begins at age 65, which is now decoupled from the ages for Social Security benefits. So, with this decoupling, it is important to keep Medicare in mind as you reach age 65 – because applying late will cause a possible 10% penalty per 12-month period that you delay applying. This penalty will continue for the rest of your life.