Turning 65 is one way you can be eligible for Medicare. You can also be under 65 years old and still qualify for Medicare because you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. In most cases, you qualify for Medicare due to a disability if you have been receiving SSDI checks for more than 24 months. This 24-month period begins with the first month that you receive a SSDI check and is also known as the two-year waiting period.  You will be automatically enrolled in Medicare at the beginning of the 25 month that you receive a SSDI check.

There is an exception to this rule if you receive SSDI because you have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. In this case, Medicare automatically begins the first month that your disability benefits start. You do not have the 24-month waiting period.

Note that Social Security, not Medicare, makes the determination of whether you qualify for SSDI checks. In addition, the Social Security Disability Insurance program administers these checks as long as you or your family members have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. For more information on the Social Security Disability Insurance program, it’s best to contact your local Social Security Administration office.

Note: Railroad workers should contact the Railroad Retirement Board for information about disability annuity and Medicare eligibility.

A final way that you can become eligible for Medicare is if you are under 65 with End-Stage Renal Disease, also known as ESRD or kidney failure.

You may qualify if you have been diagnosed with ESRD and you

  • are getting dialysis treatments or have had a kidney transplant;
  • apply for Medicare benefits (up to 12 months retroactively); and
    • you are eligible to receive SSDI;
    • you are eligible to receive railroad retirement benefits; or
    • you, a spouse, or a parent have paid Medicare taxes for a sufficient amount of time as specified by the Social Security Administration.

When your Medicare benefits begin if you are under 65 and have ESRD depends on the circumstances.

Note: If you are a railroad worker with ESRD, you must contact Social Security, not the Railroad Retirement Board, to find out if you are eligible for Medicare because you have been diagnosed with ESRD.

Because Social Security and Medicare eligibility rules are complex, you should call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to get the most accurate information regarding your particular situation.