You can sign up for Medicare if you are age 65 or older. Medicare is more than a brand of medical insurance. It is U.S. government medical insurance that you pay into starting from your first paycheck. But did you know that you may be entitled to receive Medicare benefits before age 65 if you have a qualifying disability like end-stage renal disease or ALS?
Disabilities That Qualify for Early Medicare Benefits
Most disability patients have to wait 24 months while on Social Security Disability (SSD) before they are eligible for early Medicare benefits. However, for the two following diseases, you don't have to wait that long:
- End-stage renal disease (ESRD)
- ALS, known as Lou Gehrig's disease
If you've been on dialysis for 3 months or have had a kidney transplant, you qualify for early Medicare benefits. If you have ALS and are receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you are automatically qualified. Note, however, that you will have to wait a minimum of 5 months for SSD benefits to kick in.
Do These Disabilities Qualify for Both Part A and Part B Medicare?
End-stage renal disease and ALS qualify for both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B benefits. These are called "Original Medicare." Medicare Part A covers hospitals, inpatient stays, nursing homes, hospices, and related lab tests and care. Medicare Part B covers going to the doctor like any type of medical insurance would.
Medicare Part C covers additional care like routine dental and vision. Part D covers prescriptions. Medicare Parts C and D are commonly called Medicare Advantage Plans and would require applicable fees and copays. They are private plans, unlike Parts A and B which are Federal plans. Part C, however, has been approved to be offered to disabled persons under age 65, as of 2021.
What About Medigap Insurance?
Although people with disabilities qualify for Original Medicare Parts A and B prior to age 65, the Federal government does not guarantee Medigap supplement coverage. Medigap is a Medicare Supplement insurance plan that is governed by each state. It covers the "gap" period when you are not covered by a Medicare plan. However, you will need to check with your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to see if it offers Medigap prior to age 65 if you are disabled.
The bottom line is that if you are collecting SSD and are disabled before age 65, you can get Federally-funded Medicare Parts A and B. You may or may not be eligible for Part C and D and Medigap supplement plans.
For more information about Medicare enrollment, contact a medicare insurance agency in your area.