What is Medicare, anyway?
Simply put, Medicare is a federally funded health insurance program. Though it was originally designed to help people 65 and older gain access to essential health care services, Medicare is now also available to younger people who have certain diseases and disabilities.
To help you get the health care you need at a more affordable rate, Medicare is divided into different “parts,” each covering a different set of health services, supplies, and expenses. Depending on your location and circumstances, the rules surrounding who can enroll in which plan and when may vary quite a bit.
Don’t sweat it, though. We’ll cover each of these topics as we go.
Who is eligible for Medicare?
People ages 65 and older
If you’re 65 years old or older and a US citizen who’s been living in the country for at least five years, chances are you’re already eligible to enroll in Medicare. You may even qualify for what’s called “premium-free” Medicare Part A if you meet the following requirements:
- You or your spouse have worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years before enrolling in Medicare
- You or your spouse are eligible to receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits
- You or your spouse worked in a job that was covered by Medicare
People younger than 65
If you’re under the age of 65, a US citizen, and have a Medicare-covered disease or disability, you can also enroll in Medicare. However, the requirements are slightly different. Here are some of them:
- If you have a disability, you must apply for and receive Social Security benefits for 24 consecutive months before you can enroll in Medicare
- If you have end-stage renal disease (also called ESRD or catastrophic kidney failure), you can enroll in Medicare plans after a kidney transplant or three months after you start your regular course of kidney dialysis
- If you have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), you can enroll in Medicare as soon as you start receiving Social Security benefits