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Do You Have to Be 65 to Be Medicare Eligible?

As most people approach age 65, they begin to think about their eligibility for Medicare benefits. For many, being enrolled in this program can be a welcome relief – especially as numerous employers have cut back on providing medical benefits and other health care programs have become cost prohibitive.

Yet, for some, waiting until age 65 is not a necessary requirement for enrolling for Medicare coverage. If you have a certain qualifying type of health condition, you may be able to obtain Medicare benefits at an earlier date.

How to Qualify for Medicare Prior to Age 65

There are actually three ways that you can receive Medicare benefits if you are under the age of 65. With each of these you also can qualify for a Medicare supplement plan, but because you are qualifying early the supplements are usually VERY expensive.  These reasons you can get Medicare early include:

You Are Disabled

First, you could be eligible for Medicare at a younger age if you have a qualifying disability. This would require that you are either a United States citizen or that you have your resident U.S. visa and that you have lived in the United States for at least five years in a row.

In addition, you would also have to have been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance for a minimum of 24 months. In this case, your eligibility for Medicare benefits would then begin during the month in which you have received your 25th Social Security Disability Insurance check.

To obtain your Medicare benefits in this instance, you will not need to contact Social Security or Medicare, as you will automatically qualify for coverage. In most cases, you will receive your Medicare ID card in the mail approximately three months prior to becoming eligible for your Medicare benefits.

You Have End Stage Renal Disease

Another way in which you could qualify for Medicare prior to reaching age 65 is if you have End Stage Renal Disease. If this is the case, you would also need to meet the following criteria:

  • You are receiving kidney dialysis treatments or you have had a kidney transplant
  • You have applied for Medicare benefits, and
  • You are:

o   Eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance

o   Eligible to receive Railroad Retirement Benefits, or

o   Considered to be fully insured by Social Security based on your work credits

You Have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)

The other way in which you may qualify for Medicare prior to reaching the age of 65 is if you have been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, which is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

If this is the case, you will be enrolled automatically for your Medicare benefits in the first month that you receive your Social Security Disability Insurance, or, if you are a railroad worker, you will be enrolled in Medicare during the first month in which you have received your railroad disability annuity income benefits.

If any of these circumstances apply to you, it is still a good idea to contact Medicare directly in order to ensure that you will be eligible, as well as to determine when your program benefits will begin. This way, you will have a better idea of when to anticipate coverage.

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