There are several ways individuals can become eligible for Medicare. Age, disability, and certain diagnoses can qualify someone for Medicare. Prior to enrollment, understanding how Medicare works and which plans to enroll in will ensure you get the most value. First, you’ll need to know if you are eligible to enroll in Medicare.
Medicare Eligibility Requirements To be eligible for Medicare, an individual must be 65 or older, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who has lived in the U.S. for at least five consecutive years. To receive premium-free Part A, they must have paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. If the individual has been receiving Social Security benefits, enrollment in Medicare is automatic.
Individuals who have been receiving disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months are also eligible for Medicare. Enrollment is automatic and will begin on the 25th month of disability.
People with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) are also eligible for Medicare. ALS individuals will be enrolled automatically, while those with ESRD must enroll themselves. Regardless of tax status, individuals with either of these conditions will receive premium-free Part A.
Other Medicare Eligibility Requirements
A spouse who has not paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years but is married to someone who has may still be eligible for premium-free Part A. Those who have not met the requirement must pay a premium for Part A.
Beneficiaries with low income may be eligible for financial assistance and may also be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.
Beneficiaries with high income may pay a higher premium for both Part B and Part D, called the Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA). The added premium is calculated using the tax return from two years ago.
The Social Security Administration determines disability, not the Medicare program. Individuals who have been receiving disability benefits for 24 months will be automatically enrolled in Medicare on the 25th month. In some cases, individuals may not have to wait the full 24 months. People with ALS will be eligible for Medicare the month that the disability benefits begin.
Am I automatically enrolled in Medicare when I turn 65?
Automatic enrollment in Original Medicare is available for individuals who have been collecting Social Security benefits before the age of 65, provided they qualify for premium-free Part A.
For those who are turning 65, it is recommended to enroll in Original Medicare during their Initial Enrollment Period, which starts three months before their birthday.
However, if the individual has other creditable health insurance, Medicare enrollment can be delayed. It is crucial to verify if the current coverage is “creditable.” Employers with at least 20 employees offer creditable coverage.
Medicare Supplement Eligibility
Medicare supplement insurance plans, also known as Medigap plans, are provided by private insurance companies and require individuals to be legal U.S. citizens or permanent residents for at least five consecutive years. To enroll, individuals must already be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, and in most states, they must be 65 or older, although some insurance carriers offer plans to beneficiaries who are younger than 65.
The plans are standardized by the federal government, with each plan identified by a letter of the alphabet and consistent across different insurance carriers. Therefore, it is important to compare premiums and health plan options among different carriers to ensure you are not paying more for the same coverage.
Enrolling in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan and purchasing a Medigap plan at the same time is not possible, except for a one-year time period known as the trial right period if you disenroll from Part C. Keep in mind that Medigap policies cover only one person, so if you wish to ensure your whole family, researching family health plan options may be necessary.
Enrollment periods are available for individuals who are already receiving Social Security benefits and automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A upon turning 65, with some cases also applying to Part B. During this open enrollment period, individuals have guaranteed issue rights and cannot be turned away from a plan due to any health conditions or history. For those under age 65, Medigap options are usually limited to Plan A, and premiums are higher due to increased healthcare costs and risk for claims.
However, once these individuals turn 65, they will still have guaranteed issue rights and can choose a new plan that better meets their needs.
Medicare Advantage Eligibility
Medicare Advantage Enrollments and Applications
To enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must be eligible for Medicare and have enrolled in Parts A and B. However, not all areas offer these plans, so it’s crucial to check availability before proceeding with enrollment.
Medicare Advantage plans have several enrollment periods. The Initial Enrollment Period starts around your Part B effective date, while the Annual Enrollment Period is held every fall from October 15 to December 7. You may also qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to a qualifying life event, such as your current Medicare Advantage plan leaving your area of residence. This allows you to switch policies. Additionally, you have the option to try a Medicare Advantage plan during a 12-month trial period to determine if it suits your needs.
The most convenient and efficient way to apply for a Medicare Advantage plan is through an insurance agent. They will ensure that the plan you select is tailored to your requirements, handle the necessary paperwork, and follow up with you to ensure you receive your enrollment package.
Medicare Advantage Plan Eligibility Explained
To be eligible for a Medicare Advantage plan, you must meet certain requirements. The availability of plans will depend on your location, so it is important to understand the eligibility criteria before you apply.
Qualifying for a Medicare Advantage Plan
To qualify for a Medicare Advantage plan, you must first be enrolled in Original Medicare, which includes Parts A and B. This includes people under 65 who are eligible for Medicare for reasons other than age. You must also be up to date on your Part B premium payments, as this will be required even if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Additionally, you must reside in an area where Medicare Advantage plans are offered.
Financial assistance may be available for low-income individuals or those who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid to help with premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance expenses.
Individuals diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) are eligible for Medicare Advantage plans, but their options may be limited. Special Needs Plans are available for those with chronic medical conditions.
Keep in mind that Medicare Advantage plans may not be available in all areas, and some areas may only have limited options.
Eligibility Requirements Checklist for Medicare Advantage Plans
To become eligible for a Medicare Advantage plan, you must complete three steps:
- Enroll in Medicare Parts A and B and have an effective date for Part B
- Obtain your Medicare ID number
- Reside in the service area of the plan
If you are unsure if you meet the eligibility requirements for a Medicare Advantage plan, a licensed agent can help you determine your eligibility.
Rules and Requirements for Medicare Advantage Plans
Since Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies, the rules and regulations will vary between plans. It is important to understand the details of your specific plan.
In most cases, your care will need to be received from a healthcare provider within your plan’s network to avoid higher out-of-pocket costs. You may also need a referral from your primary care physician to see a specialist. If you fail to obtain a referral, the plan may not cover the expenses, regardless of whether the specialist is within the network or not.