What Disabilities Qualify For Medicare Under 65?

Published on: July 13, 2023

Medicare is a federally funded health insurance program paying medical and related expenses for eligible recipients. Basic Medicare coverage is generally available to Americans who are 65 or older and to a limited number of younger people who fit into specific exceptions to that age requirement. Younger Medicare recipients must be approved for disability benefits by the Social Security Administration.

For those who are younger than 65 years old, Medicare becomes available to only a specific category of people:

  • Those who have received Social Security Disability benefits for 24 months,
  • Disabled individuals suffering from End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD or ESR),
  • Disabled individuals suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (Lou Gehrig’s Disease),
  • Those receiving disability pension benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board.

Eligibility also depends on whether the Medicare applicant or their spouse has accumulated enough “work credits” to qualify for cost-free coverage. Every recipient of Social Security Disability benefits must first establish that they or their spouse has earned these work credits. (Read the section below addressing the costs of Medicare for people who do not have sufficient work credits from their years of employment.)

Qualifying Disabilities for Medicare Under 65

The law provides for Medicare to be provided to those suffering from ESR and ALS at an accelerated pace because of the severe and progressive nature of each of these disabling illnesses.

Also, anyone receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits for 24 months becomes eligible for Medicare after that two-year waiting period.

Early Medicare Eligibility for Special Qualifying Disabilities:

Both End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and ALS must still meet minimal eligibility criteria to satisfy Medicare eligibility requirements.

  • Home Dialysis: ESRD Medicare coverage begins on the first day of the first month in which home-based dialysis commenced.
  • Inpatient or Clinic-based Dialysis: For those receiving dialysis treatment outside the home in a clinical setting, Medicare coverage begins on the first day of the fourth month in which they receive dialysis.
  • Kidney Transplants: If a Medicare applicant is scheduled to receive a kidney transplant, their coverage begins the month they are admitted to a Medicare-approved hospital for the transplant or for necessary pretransplant-related services.
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (Lou Gehrig’s Disease): For people with ALS, Medicare coverage is available the month they receive their first SSD benefit payment. Remember, though, that there is a five-month waiting period from the Social Security Administration’s assigned “disability onset date” until the first SSD benefit payment is received.

24-Month Waiting Period for Other Social Security Disability Recipients

For those younger than 65 years old whose disabling impairment is something other than ALS or ESRD, the waiting period for Medicare coverage is 24 months from the receipt of the person’s first SSD benefit payment. That means 29 months from the date of disability onset.

Advocates for disabled Americans have been lobbying Congress for years to convince them to reduce the 24-month Medicare waiting period for SSD benefits recipients.

Alternative sources of medical insurance for disabled people are often unaffordable. For those who had health insurance through their employer before becoming disabled, COBRA is available for 18 months. But the premium to maintain insurance through COBRA is 102% of the policy premium.

Paying for Medicare Coverage

What if neither you nor your spouse has enough work credits to be eligible for either Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or Medicare? SSD benefits are paid for by workers’ contributions through payroll deductions or self-employment taxes.

A disabled person with a low income and very limited financial resources may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Medicaid immediately covers anyone receiving SSI benefits.

If your income or financial resources are too high to qualify for SSI or Medicaid, you may be able to purchase Medicare coverage.

In 2023, someone who has more than 30 work credits but not enough to meet Medicare’s eligibility threshold can purchase Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) for $278 per month. If you or your spouse have fewer than 30 work credits, Medicare A can be obtained by paying $506 each month.

Premium-Free Medicare for Social Security Disability Impairments

For most Social Security Disability benefits recipients, the impairment they suffer from will fall under the more conventional procedure of qualifying for Medicare after 24 months. Whether your impairment qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits at all will depend entirely on the determination made by the Social Security Administration.

For both the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, the government uses the same criteria to determine if a claimed impairment qualifies for disability benefits.

The government defines a qualifying disability as follows:

A disability is a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that last or is expected to last 12 months (or results in death) and prevents the person from performing substantial gainful activities.

This strict definition is the basis for all disability determinations in either federal SSD or SSI programs.

The first essential element emphasizes the importance of “medical determinability,” meaning the claimed disabling impairment must be confirmed by the medical records, notes, observations, and reports provided by your authoritative healthcare providers. The claimed impairment must also be severe enough to prevent the claimant from earning sufficient income over the Social Security Administration’s cap.

The Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability requires that the claimant must be unable to perform “substantial gainful activities” (SGAs). In 2023, substantial gainful activities are any activity through which a person can earn more than $1,470 per month. (Blind claimants may earn up to $2,460.)

Get Experienced Medicare Guidance from Skilled Medicare and Disability Lawyers

At Disability Experts of Florida, every client gets reliable counsel from skilled, professional disability and Medicare advocates whose tenacious representation has led to thousands of successful Social Security claims and Medicare claims.

Disability Experts of Florida have been providing premiere legal advocacy to disability clients and applying over 100 years of combined experience, placing them among the most respected and successful Social Security Disability and Medicare/Medicaid advocates in the country. Get the information you and your family need today.



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