Medicare Health Coverage Eligibility: Who Qualifies and When Can You Apply?

You may be eligible to get Medicare coverage when you turn 65, though some qualify for it sooner. Let's see who qualifies and when you can apply.

Ambrish Shah - Author

Apr. 11 2023, Updated 1:23 p.m. ET

Elderly couple at the doctor.
Source: Getty Images

When you think of Medicare, you may assume that it’s for individuals who are retired. That’s correct, but the program isn’t limited to people who have worked their entire lives. You might qualify for Medicare right now and not even be aware of it.

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement

While the majority of Medicare recipients (more than 80 percent) are over the age of 65, others get assistance at a younger age due to having a qualifying disability.

Continue reading to learn more about what Medicare is, what it covers, and when you are eligible to obtain the health insurance coverage.

What is Medicare?

A couple discussing Medicare health insurance coverage.
Source: Pexels

Medicare is a federal health insurance program that offers medical coverage to people 65 and over and certain younger people with disabilities. Medicare can help pay for medical treatment and long-term care, but it may not cover all of your medical costs. Common expenses the program doesn’t cover include dentures, hearing aids, eye exams, eyeglasses, cosmetic surgery, and massage therapy.

Article continues below advertisement

Medicare is funded by taxpayers, and in certain circumstances, premiums are deducted from your social security checks or paid by you. Medicare is different than Medicaid, which provides healthcare coverage to qualifying low-income people of all ages.

When am I eligible for Medicare?

If you're at least 65 years old and have been a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident for the last five years, you're eligible for Medicare. Some disabled people under the age of 65 are also covered by Medicare. After a two-year waiting period, those who receive social security disability benefits typically qualify for Medicare.

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement
Source: Medicare Facebook

Generally, you can get Medicare when you reach the age of 65.

Those with kidney failure (end-stage renal illness) are immediately enrolled when they sign up. People who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) are also eligible the month their disability begins.

Article continues below advertisement

How do you enroll in Medicare?

You will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A hospital insurance, which covers hospital care, hospice, skilled nursing care, lab tests, home health care, and surgery. You'll also be enrolled in Part B, which covers general medical and outpatient care, if you’re already receiving social security benefits.

To receive Medicare Part D, which provides prescription drug coverage, you must enroll yourself — it isn't automatic.

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement

If you aren’t already receiving benefits, you must register on the Social Security Administration’s website. To avoid penalties, you should generally do so three months before you turn 65 years old.

Is Medicare a free service?

Most people are required to pay a Medicare monthly premium.
Source: Getty Images

If you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working for at least 10 years, you don’t have to pay a premium for Medicare Part A. Otherwise, qualified individuals must pay monthly premiums of up to $471 toward Medicare Part A. Other aspects of Medicare, such as doctor visits and prescription drugs, need monthly premiums.

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement

What is Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Part C, often known as Medicare Advantage, isn't a distinct medical coverage. It’s a provision that permits approved private insurance companies to offer insurance plans to people registered under Parts A and B. Medicare Advantage plans include all the benefits and services provided by Parts A and B.

Medicare Advantage plans may also include additional benefits such as prescription drug coverage and dental, vision, and hearing care. These plans generally have additional costs such as copays and deductibles.

More from Market Realist

Latest Medicare & Medicaid News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Market Realist. Market Realist is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.