The annual Medicare enrollment period is about to begin, bringing with it a lot of questions about choosing your coverage, understanding the alphabet soup of its various parts and finding out why and how to get supplemental coverage.
Among the many questions people have around this time of year is, Can I get on Medicare early?
Before we start talking about that, lets get some perspective on Medicare by looking at some statistics from the 2018 Annual Report of the Boards of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds.
Its the annual report of the boards that oversee the trust funds that provide the money behind the program we all know as Medicare.
According to the report, In 2017, Medicare covered 58.4 million people: 49.5 million aged 65 and older, and 8.9 million disabled. Total expenditures in 2017 were $710.2 billion, and total income was $705.1 billion.
You may have noticed that the program put out more money that it took in. The boards dont see that situation changing anytime soon. In fact, at current rates, the report estimates Medicare will run out of money in 2026. That happens to be three years sooner than estimated in the previous years report.
These numbers arent provided as a gloom-and-doom scenario. There are, of course, many minds working on how to deal with the various factors contributing to the Medicare shortfall.
However, the condition of Medicare is a very sound reason to make careful decisions about healthcare.
How do I Qualify for Early Medicare?
If the qualifying age for Medicare is much closer than 2026 for you, the long-term solvency of the program isnt an immediate concern. But making the most out your Medicare benefits is. Among the questions people tend to have is, Can I get on Medicare prior to age 65?
The short answer to the question is Yes. The downside is early eligibility tends to mean an immediate need for care. Note the 8.9 million disabled people mentioned in the annual report of the Medicare trust funds; it is such disabilities that account for early enrollment in Medicare:
Social Security Disability Benefits
If you begin collecting Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), you are automatically enrolled in Medicare after receiving those benefits for 24 months.
SSDI Due to ALS
If you begin collecting SSDI benefits (SSDI) due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease you are immediately in enrolled in Medicare when your SSDI benefits begin; the 24-month waiting period does not apply.
Railroad Worker Disability
Railroad workers receiving disability payments through the Railroad Retirement Board may also qualify for early Medicare and offer guidelines to their retirees
End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
Individuals whose ongoing renal function depends on regular dialysis or a transplanted kidney are eligible for early Medicare Due to ESRD.
As you can see, getting early Medicare coverage is fairly limited. But there are options for people who truly need them. Its important to remember whenever you start Medicare, your Medicare decisions are just part of what goes into planning for your retirement years. From your tax situation, to whether or not you should work in retirement, to when you should start collecting Social Security and more, theres plenty to think about.
Whenever the time comes to explore your Medicare options, a SelectQuote licensed agent is available to answer your questions and help you select the best plan for you.