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Can I Enroll in Medicare Before Age 65?

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Millions of older Americans enroll in Medicare to help pay their health expenses, according to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Most beneficiaries are age 65 and older. However, some people can enroll in Medicare even if they haven’t reached age 65.

Some conditions might qualify you for Medicare under age 65, such as:

  • Certain illnesses or disabilities – You may be eligible to enroll in Medicare if you receive Social Security disability benefits. In general, to meet the standards for Social Security disability benefits, your medical condition must be long-term in nature and of such magnitude that it prevents you from doing the work you formerly did or adjusting to other kinds of work. Be aware, however, that when you start receiving Social Security disability benefits, you usually aren’t immediately eligible for Medicare coverage.

If you are under age 65, in most cases you must receive Social Security disability benefits for 24 months before you can have Medicare. Usually, at the beginning of the 25th month, you automatically are enrolled in Medicare. Once you have Medicare coverage, you might be able to keep it as long as you remain disabled—even if you go back to work.

  • Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS) – If you have Lou Gehrig’s disease, you may be eligible for Medicare the month you begin receiving Social Security disability benefits. Your enrollment in Medicare should be automatic.
  • End-stage renal disease (also known as ESRD or kidney failure) – Another way you might be eligible to enroll in Medicare under age 65 is if you have been diagnosed with ESRD. When Medicare coverage begins may depend upon factors like:
    • Where you receive dialysis treatments (for example, at home or in an outpatient dialysis center)
    • When your kidney transplant occurred or will occur
    • When you apply for Medicare benefits
    • Whether you’re eligible to receive Social Security benefits through your work history or your spouse’s

If any of these medical conditions describe your circumstances, you might be eligible for Medicare under 65 years old.

How do I find out if I can enroll in Medicare early?

You can call an eHealth licensed insurance agent to ask if you’re eligible for Medicare under age 65.

Another way to learn if you qualify for Medicare under 65 is to contact your local Social Security office. You can speak with a Social Security Administration representative by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, 7 AM to 7 PM. If you worked for a railroad, contact the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) at 1-877-772-5772 (TTY users 1-312-751-4701), Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 3:30 PM, to speak to an RRB representative.

What are my coverage options if I can’t enroll in Medicare under age 65?

If you don’t qualify to enroll in Medicare now, and you or your spouse still work, enrolling in the employer or union’s group health plan may be an option for getting health insurance. You can also browse individual health plans through eHealth’s website.

If your income and assets are modest, you might want to look into applying for Medicaid. Depending upon your income, you may qualify for tax subsidies that can help reduce the cost of health insurance.

Medicare is primarily for those 65 or older, but some people can enroll in Medicare under 65 because of a disability, ESRD, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. If you have questions about whether you can enroll in Medicare or want to learn more about your Medicare coverage options, call one of eHealth’s licensed agents. To see Medicare plan options now, use the Find Plans button on this page.

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