To be eligible for Medicare, you must be either a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident for at least five continuous years. Medicare is available for people age 65 or older, younger people with disabilities and people with end-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant) or ALS
(Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Qualifying Based on Age
If you are qualifying based on your age, you must be at least 65 years old and:
- a U.S. citizen, or
- a permanent legal resident who has lived in the U.S. for a minimum of five years before applying, or
- a green card holder who has been married to a fully insured U.S. citizen or green card holder for at least one year.
Qualifying Based on a Disability
Medicare coverage takes effect at the beginning of the 25th month after you began receiving Social Security disability benefits. The 24 months do not need to be consecutive. For example, if you received benefits for a few months, then lost eligibility but qualified again at some later date (even years later), all the months in which you received benefits would count toward the 24-month waiting period.
The 24-month waiting period may be waived in two circumstances:
- If you have permanent kidney failure — known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and defined as needing regular dialysis or a kidney transplant — you may qualify for Medicare within one to three months. The start of Medicare coverage depends on what kind of care you need (dialysis or a kidney transplant) and whether you have coverage under an employer plan.
- If you have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease — you must apply for Social Security disability. Your Medicare coverage begins at the same time as you start receiving disability benefits (usually five months after your disability application has been approved).
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