If you’re nearing retirement age, you know there’s a lot to think about — like your future income, living expenses and health insurance. Social Security and Medicare are two key benefits for older adults in the United States. But the age rules aren’t quite the same for these two programs. So if you’re already receiving Social Security, you may be wondering: Can I get Medicare at age 62?
Here we’re diving into the age guidelines for each program. Learn when you can get Social Security, when you can get Medicare, and what to do next.
What’s the Difference Between Medicare and Social Security?
Medicare and Social Security are often confused because they’re both important benefits for older people. You’ve probably noticed deductions for both these funds coming out of your paychecks, and the Social Security Administration also handles enrollment for both programs. But being eligible for one doesn’t automatically make you eligible for the other.
Social Security was created as part of President Roosevelt’s famous New Deal legislation, in response to the Great Depression. It was designed to give retired workers a reliable income in their later years.
You pay into the Social Security program through deductions from each paycheck during your working years. Then when you retire, you can start drawing retirement benefits from the program based on the amount you paid in. These payments serve as an important source of monthly income for retirees.
Medicare is a federal health insurance plan for older adults and certain chronically ill groups. Since most people in the United States get their health insurance through their job, Medicare is key to ensuring that people have quality health insurance during retirement. This is especially important since the retirement years are when many people face their most serious health problems.
Medicare includes a variety of parts and plan options that you can choose from depending on your needs.
When Am I Eligible for Social Security?
To get Social Security retirement benefits, you need to be at least 62 years old, and you need enough work credits based on your age and what you paid in. Anyone who has enough credits by age 62 is eligible to start receiving benefits. You also need to be a U.S. citizen or a legally recognized permanent resident.
Even if you’re eligible to get Social Security retirement benefits at age 62, you may want to wait to claim them. For people born after 1960, the Social Security Administration considers age 67 to be your full retirement age. When you claim benefits earlier than your full retirement age, you get less money each month. So waiting until your full retirement age will make you eligible for more money.
I’m 62 and on Social Security. Can I Get Medicare?
Probably not, unless you have certain health problems. Medicare has different age requirements than Social Security. While Social Security starts at 62, the basic requirement for Medicare eligibility is being age 65 or older.
In addition to meeting the Medicare age requirement, you also need to have paid deductions from your paychecks for several years. (If you didn’t work enough to meet this requirement, you could also qualify because of your spouse’s paycheck contributions.)
However, some people qualify for Medicare at younger ages due to having specific chronic health problems.
Who Qualifies for Medicare Before Age 65?
As we’ve said, getting monthly Social Security payments doesn’t mean that you’re eligible to get Medicare. But if you’re age 62, or even younger, you may qualify for Medicare if you have certain health problems or disabilities.
Everyone who’s eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is also eligible for Medicare after a two-year waiting period. So if you’re younger than 65 but you’ve received monthly SSDI disability payments for at least the past two years, you can enroll in Medicare early. And if you’re getting SSDI because you’ve been diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), you can enroll even sooner.
With or without SSDI payments, an adult with end-stage kidney disease may be eligible for Medicare. Medicare coverage starts based on either the time you start dialysis (a treatment for kidney failure) or the time you get a kidney transplant surgery.
Qualifying for Medicare at age 62 is definitely the exception rather than the rule. Most people need to wait until they’re 65 to enroll in Medicare. If you’re 64 or younger, you don’t have ALS or kidney disease, and you haven’t received SSDI payments for at least two years, you don’t qualify for Medicare. If you need help finding health insurance in the meantime, check out HealthCare.gov.