Definition of Medicare

What is Medicare?

Medicare is health insurance for people 65 or older, people under 65 with certain disabilities, and people of any age with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant).

How to Qualify for Medicare

Medicare eligibility begins for most people at age 65. Individuals who have been entitled to Social Security disability for at least 24 months also qualify.

Many people confuse their Medicare Eligibility date with their Social Security date. They are different. A person can apply for full retirement income benefits at age 66. However, this does not affect the age at which they qualify for Medicare. Everyone who has worked at least 40 quarters (10 years) in the United States during their lifetime can qualify for Medicare at age 65.

If you are already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits, then you will also automatically receive Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65. If you’re automatically enrolled, you will receive your Medicare card in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday, or the 25th month of disability benefits.

If you are not receiving Social Security or Retirement Benefits, or if you have End-Stage Renal Disease, you will need to sign up for Part A. There are many ways to do so, whether in person, over the phone, or online. To learn more, please visit this page. If you are not automatically enrolled, and are eligible to sign up for Part A, you can enroll anytime once your Initial Enrollment Period starts. You can only sign up for Part B during your initial enrollment period, general enrollment period, or special enrollment period. These enrollment periods are discussed in further detail on our “Medicare Enrollment Periods” page.