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When I Become a Citizen Can I Get Medicare?

Q. I am 70 years old and have never worked in the United States, so I don’t qualify for Social Security or Medicare. But next year I hope to become a U.S. citizen. Can I get Medicare then?

As soon as you become a U.S. citizen, you can get Medicare coverage by buying into the system in the following ways: 

  • Paying a full premium for Part A hospital insurance, amounting to $450 a month in 2011.  (People who have paid enough payroll taxes while working do not pay a premium for Part A services.)
  • Paying the same premium for Part B as other people.  Part B covers doctors’ services, outpatient services and medical equipment.  The standard Part B premium in 2011 is $115.40 a month, or maybe more if your income is over a certain level.

If you buy into Part A, you must also enroll in Part B.  You can enroll in Part B even if you don’t buy into Part A.  You can get Part D drug coverage if you have Part A or Part B or both.  

People who are legal residents (green card holders) and have lived continuously in the United States for at least five years can also buy into Medicare in this way.

To sign up for Medicare, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

Patricia Barry is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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