It’s inevitable for everyone. As we get older, the likelihood that we will need medical care starts to increase. For Americans, Medicare insurance has been the trusted insurance solution for seniors for decades. However, with its multiple “parts” and varying eligibility requirements, Medicare insurance isn’t always the easiest coverage to understand.
In fact, just determining when you qualify for Medicare presents the first challenge. The answer isn’t as simple as memorizing one set age. Whether you're wondering if you can get Medicare upon early retirement at age 62 or you’re simply ready to start planning for the future, this simple guide makes it easy to understand what you need to know about Medicare eligibility.
Eligibility Based on Age
For most Americans, age is the most important eligibility factor for Medicare. In general, American citizens and permanent residents qualify for Medicare at age 65. If you are already receiving social security benefits when you qualify at age 65, then your enrollment in Medicare Part A and Part B — the core Medicare components that cover hospitalization and regular medical care — is automatically initiated by the Social Security Administration.
If you are not yet receiving social security benefits in the four months prior to turning 65, then you need to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B yourself. You have a seven-month time window for completing your enrollment during the year you turn 65. Your enrollment period runs from three months prior to your birth month until three months after your birth month.
It’s important to note that the cost of coverage won’t necessarily be the same for everyone who qualifies at age 65. The specific cost of the coverage you qualify for will vary, depending on your (or your spouse's) status as a taxpayer. If you never paid Medicare taxes, for example, you won’t qualify for free Medicare Part A hospitalization coverage and will have to pay a premium. Most taxpayers receive Part A coverage without paying a premium. Deductibles and coinsurance costs are the same for those who pay premiums and those who don’t.
When signing up, you can also opt for Medicare Advantage instead of Original Medicare or choose Original Medicare with supplemental coverage, such as a Medigap supplement and Part D prescription drug coverage. These options would change and expand the coverage provided by your Medicare insurance.